Growing up in Egypt, Abraham Ghebreal ate as much or more European food as traditional cuisine of his country. His entire family, from grandparents to siblings, loved to cook Continental, and that led him to study culinary arts in Belgium and France. In July of last year, Ghebreal opened 4 Seasons Mediterranean in Wharton to showcase the cooking primarily of Spain, southern Italy and the Italian and French Rivieras.
Having worked across Europe and the United States, Ghebreal, 46, is finally running his own show. You’ll find him in the dining room greeting every guest and attending to their needs. He is the clear star, supported by his veteran chefs, Segundo Chicaiza and Walter Jimbo.
There is a kids’ menu, so bring the family. This friendly spot, a short distance from Wharton’s commercial district, was a defunct restaurant when Ghebreal acquired it in February 2015 and began putting his “heart and soul into making it beautiful.”
Freshly stuccoed walls hung with tapestries exemplify the Mediterranean vibe. Other improvements include a lovely outdoor patio and a wine cellar for private events for up to 70 people. While waiting for a table or just hanging out, you might cozy up to the eight-seat bar near the entrance. It’s a convivial, if not especially roomy, nook and a good place to try the specialty cocktails and, most of all, the array of red and white sangrias.
Ghebreal takes pride in serving housemade pasta and sparklingly fresh fish. “People come here just for the special fish of the day,” he says.
A generous portion of seared ahi tuna was pleasing over an arugula salad in a light vinaigrette with shaved Parmesan. One of the best dishes in our visits was a crab-stuffed branzino in a silky lemon-caper sauce, served with mashed potatoes and fresh green beans. A standout appetizer was tender sautéed calamari with chorizo in a white wine sauce begging to be sopped up with the crusty bread provided.
As you might expect, risottos and paellas are a specialty. We ordered the Girona, a paella promising a bounty of chicken, chorizo, shrimp, clams, mussels, calamari and baby octopus. What was brought to the table was—oops!—the Mallorca, a simpler chicken-and-chorizo paella. The waitress apologized profusely, leaving us to dig into the Mallorca while she hustled up a beautiful Girona. Thus, we toted home a week’s worth of leftovers.
In pastas, the seafood theme continued with pappardelle tossed with shrimp, scallops, sun-dried tomatoes and asparagus in a roasted garlic sauce. Linguine with white clam sauce arrived in a generous portion with plenty of plump clams in their open shells.
Doing our due diligence, we ordered the double lamb chops in a mushroom- cognac sauce, and they came as ordered, medium rare. Their flavor also hit the mark. When one of our party asked if there was a surf ’n’ turf, the waitress got the kitchen to create one: a huge sirloin topped with jumbo shrimp and more mushroom-cognac sauce. Like every other plate we tried, it was generous and reasonably priced.
The only disappointment was the tarte de Barcelona—a brie, bacon and apple appetizer on a house-made tortilla of no distinction spread with applesauce and cheese. Much better was the Roquefort salad with mixed greens, melon chunks and toasted walnuts.
For dessert, ethereally light raspberry cheesecake and tiramisu follow old Ghebreal family recipes. “I’ve been approached to sell the recipes,” he says, but so far he has resisted the temptation.
From the little bar come rich after-dinner drinks such as Godiva-liqueur cappuccino and the Ninitini, a mix of espresso-flavored vodka, Bailey’s cream liqueur and Frangelico.Click here to leave a comment
Price Details:Appetizers, $4.99-$12.99; salads, $5.99-$7.99; pastas, $10.99-$18.99; entrées, $12.99-$25.99; desserts, $4.99-$7.99.
Service:Friendly and accommodating.
Wine list:Full bar, varied sangrias a specialty.