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The emphasis is on fresh at Limani Mediterranean Grill, but be ready for the price.

The Limani Method

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Making use of impeccably fresh ingredients has become commonplace in the better restaurants around town. When just-harvested produce and just-caught fish can be flown from all parts of the world in only a few hours, the term seasonal becomes relative. Restaurant owners and chefs, with their access to a network of vendors, have increased our expectations of "fresh." Limani Mediterranean Grill, transformed from the space that was once Café Mosaic, is the latest establishment to offer its versions of "fresh, never frozen." Featuring mostly fish and shellfish, the food is grilled almost exclusively over wood. That simplicity requires a top-notch product. Chef Matthew Tlusty, who has rattled pots and pans in several of Richmond's esteemed kitchens, most recently as executive chef at the Dining Room at the Berkeley, is in charge. The space has been redecorated, a bar added up front, but in keeping with the straightforward presentation of the food, the dining room, which seats optimally three dozen, is attractive but basic. A table in back, overlooking the glass-enclosed kitchen, allows a front-row view of the action. Our server made no attempt to orient us to the Limani method. After puzzling over the menu and realizing that we needed help, we asked for guidance. Although a long list of fish is on the menu, only a few items are available on a daily basis. A lighted board at the back lists the available whole fish, fillets and shellfish, and their prices by the pound. (This list and the server's notes did not coincide.) [image-1](Stacy Warner / richmond.com)I started with white anchovies, delicate little creatures that bear little resemblance to the tinned variety that are better known (and too frequently not given a fair chance). Arranged symmetrically around some baby lettuce with a sparse scattering of salmon roe, they were a pleasant beginning. Our reaction to the almost-room-temperature calamari was tepid. With only a lemon to offer it zest, it didn't sing much of a song. A salad of mixed greens with slices of an interesting cheese akin to feta was more on the mark. Other starters ($3.50-$9.50) include mussels, stuffed calamari and smoked salmon, as well as three soups and several other salads. Lamb chops and a couple of steaks are offered among the entrees, but fish and shellfish are the features. Whole fish choices — subject to market availability — were rockfish (farm-raised), yellowfin snapper, red snapper and rainbow trout; fillets were grouper, tuna, Arctic char, and swordfish; as well as shrimp and scallops. Basted with oregano-infused olive oil and garnished only with a grilled lemon, the fish must be not only fresh but perfectly cooked. Whole fish are also deboned and filleted before being sent to table. Red snapper and rockfish were delicate and succulent. A rather thick grouper fillet could have had another minute on the grill, but if I have to choose between overcooked fish and undercooked, I'll choose the latter. These plates are unadorned except for the fish, the lemon and a sprig of fresh oregano. [image-2](Stacy Warner / richmond.com)The four side dishes ($4.50) are extra. We chose the braised chicory and another dish of grilled vegetables (eggplant, carrots, squash and zucchini), good accompaniments to the fish. Potatoes and rice are the other choices. We had an inexpensive French chardonnay ($18) with our meal. The wine list has several inexpensive bottles, as well as several by the glass. And we finished with a Greek galatoboureko, rich phyllo-wrapped custard ($4.75), a good way to cash in on the healthy choices in the first two courses. There's always the moment of reckoning when the check comes, and we reach for the plastic. The problem with the concept of Limani is that the fish is chosen for you, so you have only a very vague notion of its price. The red snapper weighed in at 1.69 pounds for a whopping $37.18. That's steep for an a la carte entree. Others were between $20 and $25. But the fish was

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