Perhaps you have long heard that Gorji is a hidden oasis, a Mediterranean secret presided over by Mansour Gorji—owner, chef, chief provisioner, host, server, and promoter. Last year, the restaurant changed its name after 14 years, shortening it from Canary by Gorji. Gorji also introduced a no-tipping policy, the first in the area to lead the foray. But the essence remains the same: one man and seven tables. You always feel he is cooking for you.
The repertoire, which reflects Gorji’s Iranian roots, draws from the whole Mediterranean basin. The wine list highlights regions such as Lebanon, Greece, Morocco, Turkey, and Azerbaijan—a list that reflects the taste of someone who takes pride in unearthing hard-to-source wines and who will only include pours he finds interesting and would drink himself.
And the food includes some of the healthiest, yet sumptuous Mediterranean offerings. A recent evening delivered lamb’s brain paté, the delicacy spooned on a crostada under a flurry that had the flavors of a Persian egg salad—tomatoes and feta; tart, dilly pickles—on a plate liberally dusted with sumac. I gasped and wanted to clap when he set down the baby eggplants. They came as three tiny globes with their tops as caps. The insides were almost a custard, filled with pungent Gorgonzola dolce and bathed in spicy arrabbiata sauce from the house line of jarred sauces.
Gorji combines elegance and simplicity with a particular talent for lightness, a willingness to let herbs speak and lushness complement without burdening. Vegetables are simply prepared, just kissed by the grill. Butterflied poached trout under a blanket of yogurt has been topped with slivers of crisped elephant garlic and Kalamata olives for a kiss of luxury and tartness. Free-range, grass-fed venison tenderloin ($59) had a texture like velvet. Langoustine tails got lost in the side of lightly burgundy-tinted sour cherry and plum risotto that could have been creamier.
But the house tends to excel at perfectly cooked proteins. Around us, the consensus seemed clear from couples dipping into three-course tasting menus and a table that lingered over the white tablecloth: a meal is a treat, from the well-picked wine to the soft, house-made sheep’s milk cheese served for dessert—a cheese like a Neufchatel or mascarpone, served with a Medjool date and pomegranate molasses.
The Mediterranean enclave is in a shopping center, but behind windows and shrubbery, it’s sheltered. And while it’s very European, it’s Mediterranean in a different way than most might be used to.