Mazen@106 is the relaunch of the former Mediterranean Cafe, located in the Village Faire center on Carlsbad Village Drive just east of the PCH. Owner Mazen Afghani says he was not satisfied with the old cafe and kitchen, so he shut it down for 9 months for a total reboot, reopening as Mazen@106 Mediterranean Fusion and Grill.
He installed an entirely new kitchen, hired new staff, and restyled the interior in a bright, colorful California meets Moroccan-ish look with both table and couch seating. The couches look great for Happy Hour or apps with a group of friends.
The menu was reworked by Mazen, son and GM Alex Afghani, and new head chef Anthony Solis, assisted by sous chef Julio Montano. Throughout the night Afghani —(“please, call me Mazen”) ok, Mazen — variously called the new cuisine “Mediterranean fusion with a California twist” and “California fusion with a Mediterranean twist”. I’m not sure which it should be called or the line between fusion and a twist, but I don’t think it matters and it changes by the dish anyway. But the feel is consistent and I get what he means.
We got a look at the new place and a sampling of some of the appetizers at a recent media event.
The dishes were laid out buffet-style and were constantly being rotated and refreshed. We started with Greek-ish salad that was a massive, delicious pile of greens, tomatoes, onion, olives, cucumbers, feta and other bits that was tasty and well dressed.
The hummus and baba ganouj (eggplant dip) is made in-house and was excellent and nicely presented, along with a pile of fresh pita chips. The spicy version of the hummus was a table fave.
Hot dishes started arriving including a crispy calamari with a quite good spicy dipping sauce and a surprisingly interesting grilled vegetable medley. Usually I’m “meh” about grilled veggies but these had some sort of preparation on them that made them actually interesting. I’m pretty sure it was a balsamic reduction of some kind with some other seasoning. Not certain what all was in it but I liked it.
The flatbreads were the star of the show though. From a simple margherita with mozz, Parmesan, tomato and basil to an elaborate number that took some, ahem, further research to decipher. Three research pieces, to be exact. For research.
There were a lot of toppings on this flatbread. From my notes at the time my guess was: chicken breast, dates, spinach, blue cheese (Gorgonzola?), bacon and caramelized onion. There isn’t an exact match on their menu but there is a very similar one that has fig spread instead of dates, and I was right on the Gorgonzola. The flatbread was strongly flavored and delicious, with the pungent gorgonzola and generous topping of chicken and salty bacon offset by the sweetness of what was either date or fig spread. I’m not sure which it was that night but both would work.
I could not get a good picture of this creation due to the colorful lighting in the space, which is interesting for dining but wreaked havoc on photography. Havoc had also already been wreaked on the flatbread by other guests, so it wasn’t very photogenic by the time I got to it anyway. Between eating, talking to the staff, taking notes, and waiting in line I didn’t get as many photos of the food as I would have wanted.
The kitchen staff were cranking things out quickly with Alex at various times expediting and plating and even assembling flatbreads. Mazen the owner was a pinballing bundle of smiling energy working the room like a boss. Entertainment was provided by saxophonist Adrienne Nims, who will be playing at Mazen@106 occasionally, check her calendar for when to catch this excellent musician. We were also treated to a belly dancing exhibition, which I believe they will be doing most Saturdays.
We didn’t get a chance to sample any of the entrees at this event, but the menu shows lots of seafood and other “Cali-Medi” dishes that would be worth a try. If they keep that great energy up and deliver on the rest of the menu like they did on the apps, this place has a bright future right in the heart of Carlsbad.
Cheers and good luck on the new place, Mazen!
300 Carlsbad Village Dr #106
Carlsbad CA 92008