Greece may be getting a bad rap now for its mounting debt and its free and easy work ethic, but let's not forget this ancient civilization's contributions to democracy, literature, philosophy and salad.
And though you will not find as many Greek restaurants in Dallas as, say, Italian ones, the food of the Hellenic Republic has ardent adherents. Over the years, my wife and I have tried several of these establishments, but return time and again to Zorba's Greek Café for its warm welcome, excellent dishes, and most of all its affordability.
Zorba's storefront setting has been transformed into Athenian warmth through the liberal use of crockery hung on the walls and numerous photos and paintings displaying various aspects of Greek life. Wooden tables, chairs and multiple dining rooms that seem stitched together complete a scene that represents the interior of a private Grecian home.
Hummus is generally a great meal starter at Zorbas, but on this occasion, I was under-whelmed by the puree of Garbanzo beans, lemon juice, tahini, and garlic. Perhaps it was the memory of the robust, garlicky Mediterranean Hummus Supreme that we had enjoyed only a few weeks ago at Zea Woodfire Grill, but Zorbas version seemed rather tame by comparison. Luckily we had brought excellent wine (do-it-yourself, no-fee corkage), and the Becker Vineyards Prairie Rotie, a Rhone-style blend of carignan, mouvedre, and Grenache proved stout enough to stand on its own, as well as pairing well with our entrees.
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Virtually every Greek restaurant worth its tzatziki offers gyros and luckily, Zorba's Original Gyros Platter is one of the best dishes on the menu. Spiced lamb is sliced thinly off the rotisserie broiler and presented in a generous portion served, as per my wife's request, over very good, olive-oil-roasted Greek potatoes with cool , creamy tzatziki sauce and pita bread. The lamb is melt-in-your-mouth tender, which unfortunately was not the case with my souvlaki; the two flame-broiled skewers of lamb were left on the broiler just a little too long and were rather tough, though tasty.
We still had room after our meal to consider dessert. Bypassing the usual baklava or Ek Meck (a sumptuously rich Turkish bread pudding that is our go-to standard at Zorbas), we decided to take up our waiter and his suggestion and take home a new dessert called Yaniotika. Phyllo-wrapped, honey drenched, and looking like a Greek burrito cut in half, the yaniotika was smallish but rich and satisfying, with cocoanut, fig, and apricot flavors deftly woven together. Like many desserts in Greece, a little yaniotika goes a long way. Now if they can only get their Euros to do the same.
ZORBAS GREEK CAFÉ 1501 Preston Rd, #150 Plano, TX 75093 972 250-0002 www.zorbasplano.com