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The Lemon Tree Mediterranean Bistro

By Jonathan Belgrave

The Lemon Tree Mediterranean Bistro (Lemon Tree), a relative newcomer to the St. Catharines and Niagara Region restaurant market, introduces a ‘lemony twist’ in casual dining. With notes of lemon flavours in their dishes, or off to the side, owners Billy and Isabella Qorri make their favorite ingredient the cornerstone of their menu.

After visiting Lemon Tree for a third time, it is pleasant to see the progression of this independently owned establishment finding its foothold in its neighbourhood. From bare walls and awkward open spaces, Lemon Tree now feels complete and is fully up to speed. The atmosphere is clean and crisp which properly reflects its namesake. The mostly white space with punches of colour in reds, yellows and a large scenic blue mural are not distracting and lend positively to the dining experience.

Initial impressions of the menu do not indicate any risk or bold takes from traditional dining experiences. What would be considered traditional menu items for this cuisine, would appeal to conservative diners and a safe bet for those looking for a new place to dine out. By no means does this indicate that the flavours are bland. Moving from appetizer to main, there is a noticeable crescendo in flavour intensity.

To start, as recommended, the Asiago Cheese Dip and Calamari were sampled. The cheese dip served with lightly oiled grilled pita stood out of the two. Creaminess combined with the bitter spinach and artichoke was not overpowering. The Calamari had what can be described as a soft spice on its own. With the accompanying tzatziki sauce, it is prepared in a well balanced manner. The Calamari is not overly breaded and crispy and not rubbery and tough as can be found sometimes in other establishments.

Out of the two entrees recommended on this occasion, the Grilled Salmon is a winner over the Lamb Skewers. The lamb, while great on its own, is tender, and the addition of the accompanying lemon drizzled onto the grilled meat and veggies is a must in keeping with the restaurant’s theme. The fall apart salmon is the choice meal due to the natural flavours enhance with the light caramelization that occurs with Chef Billy’s light grilling process and topped with a shrimp and white seafood sauce. Unlike the lamb and other meals which are further enhanced with the lemon, the numerous flavours and soft textures already present in the Salmon entree are all that’s needed.

As The Lemon Tree is still young, the service and food prep is mostly conducted or closely supervised by Isabella and Chef Billy respectively. As owners who have personally taken the risk to make their passion their own, the level of service and food quality is a direct translation of their efforts.

The Lemon Tree Mediterranean Bistro a fine establishment for a casual lunch or dinner with a few close friends or re-connecting with an old one. It is also an example of what there needs to be more of in the Niagara Region and we should give it our support. The Lemon Tree Mediterranean Bistro gets a “Worth checking out” from Jaywalk.

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