A new Mediterranean restaurant called Tree of Wishes has opened in the former Vinoteque space along Melrose Avenue, adding yet another neighborhood place to eat with a lovely patio and vegetable-focused menu. The place originally debuted in February 2020, only to be forced to close less than a month later due to pandemic. It went through a reopening phase last summer but second again in July 2020 due to a second wave of COVID-19 cases in LA County that lasted into 2021. Now, Tree of Wishes is ready to open and stay that way for the foreseeable future, with a third opening just a few weeks ago on June 25.
Despite the challenges, the place seems to be in steady hands as this isn’t the first effort for founders Esra Firatli and Fatih Ozkara, who come from the Aegean coast of Turkey. This is Firatli’s fourth restaurant while Ozkara has years of restaurant management, and remains an active partner of an Istanbul-based restaurant group.
The Vinoteque space was always considered a bit of a sleeper hit for Melrose denizens, and it looks like Tree of Wishes looks to fulfill a lot of that feel, with a hidden back patio, homey indoor dining area, and easygoing, shareable food. Chef Alex Guzauski, an LA native with over 20 years of cooking experience both here and in New York City, was most recently a sous chef at Redbird. The menu starts with a wide array of mezze, from spiced labneh and muhammara to marinated beets with housemade bread. Skewers grilled over charcoal come in sets of three, and include beef, chicken, or salmon wrapped in grape leaf. A set of starters include crispy calamari with lemon caper aioli while grilled octopus comes with tomato fennel vinaigrette and baby potatoes.
Salads like arugula, lentils, bulgar, and artichoke hearts give way to entrees like a whole roasted cauliflower, whole grilled fish with charmoula, or herb-grilled hangar steak. Finish meals with Turkish coffee chocolate custard with crushed almonds or a selection of cheeses with honeycomb and seasonal fruit. The vibe here is very much relaxed and neighborhood-friendly, with an affordable set of wines by the glass (like a $11 Torre di Luna cabernet or $12 sauvignon blanc from New Zealand), craft beers, and hard kombucha.
The name of the restaurant comes from a tree at the center where people can hang their wishes, giving the place an extra bit of lovability. Hours are 4:30 to 10 p.m., with happy hour from opening to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. On weekends the place closes at 11.