Carmel Magazine

CM Winter 2016 Issue

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brought together by a love of hospitality and the dulcet tones of the oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument. "We became fast friends," says Sneeh. Within weeks they hatched a plan to open a Carmel restaurant called Dametra, an amalgamation of Damascus and Petra. Dametra opened in 2008 with eager fans queuing onto Ocean Avenue. The secret? Genuine hospitality, food from their homelands and impromptu oud-led singalongs. "We wanted to bring our culture to Carmel, to the fullest expression," says Nimri. "We feel humbled at how we've been accepted." First, they expanded Dametra into an adjacent building. Then they opened a fast-casual version at Del Monte Shopping Center. Now they've purchased two iconic restaurants, Merlot (now Mediterranean Restaurant) and Portobello, 70- seat neighbors on Ocean Avenue. They plan to stick to their roots, offering a dif- ferent feel to each place. "We couldn't have imagined [the success]," says Sneeh. "We give credit to this community. We have been welcomed like family. Two guys from the Middle East. It's amazing." For more info, go to LOCAL SUSHI RESTAURANTS SERVE UP SUSHI IN STYLE While American kids spent generations toting their school lunches in colorful metal boxes depicting everything from "The Lone Ranger" to "The Simpsons," students in Japan used a classic box-shaped container called a bento. A traditional bento holds rice, fish or meat with pickled or cooked vegetables. In Japanese restaurants in the US, bento boxes feed a sushi-loving public. Four local restaurants: Crystal Fish, Hanagasa, Oh! Sushi, and Robata Grill & Sake Bar pack an especially delicious assortment. There's a three-item box (also with miso soup, salad and rice) at Crystal Fish in Monterey ($14), that contains saba shio (mackerel), sweet potato roll and pink lady hand roll. At Hanagasa in Carmel, there's a two-item box (also with miso, salad and rice), with ikayaki (grilled squid) and kakifurai (fried oysters) for $10. A one-item box at Oh! Sushi in Monterey (served with sushi, sashimi, rice, salad, soup) contains barbecued short rib ($13.95). And Robata Grill & Sake Bar in Carmel extends the experience to vegetari- ans, offering a bento with edamame, steamed veggies, vegetable tempura, tofu and seaweed cucumber salad ($14). Now that cer tainly beats a PB&J and a bag of chips. LAST BITES Wanting a "normal" day job, French-born chef and family man Jérôme Viel has left Wills Fargo in Carmel Valley to purchase Carmel Valley Market…Monterey native Joey Nguyen has brought his San Jose Poke Lab to Alvarado Street. The popular Hawaiian concept surrounds customized rice or salad bowls with a choice of raw tuna, salmon, shrimp or tofu and a variety of sauces and toppings…Colin Ling has followed in the footsteps of his father Craig (of Sandbar & Grill) by opening Melville's Tavern, a gastro- pub in Monterey. 190 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • W I N T E R 2 0 1 6 Several local sushi restaurants offer bento boxes, with sushi, rice, salad and other choices. Photo: Shutterstock

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