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3. Group Shot_credit Melissa Hom.JPG Melissa Hom
A spread of dishes at Theodora.

Chef Tomer Blechman opens Theodora — his third Mediterranean restaurant in Brooklyn

The open-fire concept serves seasonal produce, dry-aged fish and natural wines

Chef Tomer Blechman, who runs the popular Mediterranean restaurant Miss Ada and its sister concept Nili, both in Brooklyn, recently added to his growing restaurant portfolio with Theodora, which debuted Feb. 9 in the Fort Greene neighborhood of the New York City borough.

Theodora is a progression of Miss Ada and builds upon the Mediterranean flavors that Israel-born Blechman is known for, while diving more deeply into seasonal produce, dry-aged seafood, and wood-fired cooking.

Blechman is joined by co-owner Gerardo Estevez and general manager/wine director Maggie Dahill, who has put together a thoughtful natural wine program to complement the food.

The restaurant was designed by Brooklyn-based Home Studios, which also worked on projects including Gwen in Los Angeles and June and Fausto in Brooklyn. The space is warm, bright, and airy, with neutral tones and various textures, like plaster, stone, tile and wood. The 76-seat dining room is anchored by an open kitchen and draws in natural light via large front windows and multiple skylights.

Theodora’s menu was crafted with Blechman’s philosophy that food should nourish from within.

“There is a deep connection in the way we heal ourselves in every moment of our lives,” Blechman said. “I believe that by creating a menu that uses fresh ingredients, not using a lot of fat, and bringing simplicity by grilling and using smoke as a flavor, will provide for a healthier diet.”

Mediterranean flavors are enhanced by live-fire cooking, and fish is dry-aged between three and seven days to concentrate its natural flavors and to bring out its umami elements.

Dishes include wood-fired beets with salsa macha (a thick salsa hailing from Veracruz) and balsamic reduction; grilled prawns marinated with tamarind, fennel and pea leaves; Spanish mackerel with salmoriglio, tarragon and salsa macha; and octopus with smoked shallots and pickled peppers.

Larger format plates include a whole branzino baked with rosemary, thyme, lemon and chermoula; and lamb neck shawarma topped with rhubarb, amba (pickled mango sauce), strawberry schug (a riff on the Yemeni sauce), and tahini.

Dahill, who previously worked at Oleana in Boston and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, put together a drinks program focused on natural wines from smaller up-and-coming winemakers from around the world. The cocktails are named for mythical creatures and ancient gods, like the Aristaeus, made with tequila, feta, honey chamomile, and lemon.

Theodora is just a few blocks away from Miss Ada, and Blechman acknowledges the inherent benefits and challenges of operating two restaurants so close together. For starters, proximity breeds convenience.

“I can overlook each restaurant and be at one or the other within five minutes, [which] helps me stay in control of the operations,” he said. “We can share ingredients, and sometimes if there is a staff member that is sick, we can cover from the other place.” 

On the other hand, focus is naturally divided with more than one restaurant. Every hour that Blechman spends at one venue is an hour that he’s not at the other, but that issue is mitigated by surrounding himself with a trusted team.

As for what’s next, Blechman shared that he’s already working on a bakery located just a few doors down from Theodora that is slated to open later this spring.

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