After a rocky start that included a dramatic chef shuffle and an opening date scoot, things are up and moving at Ziziki's-owned THE GREEK in One Arts Plaza. Just this past weekend, there was a shakeup: Chef Richard Silva made an abrupt exit. Chef Taylor Kearney (of Boulevardier and Charlie Palmer fame) took his place, just hours before opening day. That mess has been sorted.
I popped in during the soft opening to take it all in, along with some eager Arts District-area workers. The new official open date is this Friday, October 19.
Just a few architectural details (and the all-capital lettering style) of the former COMMISSARY spot remain in THE GREEK's new digs. Tall, tall ceilings and a rippling white-textured wall studded with chalkboards for specials round out the earthy, simple feel to the space. And it's more open now, with the removal of part of the long bar that ran along the kitchen-facing side of the restaurant. Just one massive marble-topped bar remains, for now, without a license to sell liquor. Never you mind, cocktail-lovers, one is on the way. Speaking of which, I checked out shaker-king Jason Cosmas' cocktail menu, which includes Greekified concoctions like the Olympic Cup (Metaxa 5 Star, Cointreau, lime, cucumber, mint and ginger beer), The Onasis (Champagne and St. Germain topped with candied kumquats), and Greek Sangria (Mosofilero white wine, lemon, St. Germain and melon). Opa indeed.
The Greek people aren't known for being quiet, and I'm thinking the more subtle decor at THE GREEK is meant to let the flavors in the dishes speak for themselves. Chef Tesar's lamb burger may be long gone, but there's plenty of lamb on a menu that dresses up classic Greek flavors in tapas-style portions.
The menu begins with a selection of pitas, all priced between $7 and $10. They arrive to the table unfolded, presenting their interior goodness to all before being wrapped up and eaten in the traditional gyro fashion.
At my table, we tried the traditional lamb gyro and the "Steak & Shrooms" which had crispy leek strands, horseradish aioli and cheese along with meaty wild mushrooms and sliced beef. Salads are similarly priced, featuring a Greek-style wedge as well as others topped with either chicken or salmon.
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A salad called "the real Greek" contains no lettuce, but is rather a sizeable platter of brightly-colored selections: good quality feta, plump cherry tomatoes dressed in a simple vinaigrette, black and green olives and slices of fresh cucumber. It would make for an excellent appetizer for friends to share. Pizzas are $8 to $10 and come topped simply with ingredients like tomatoes, mushrooms, arugula, caramelized onions and lamb sausage.
The "Mezes" portion of the menu ($6 to $12) is made up of small plates of dips meant for sharing and new twists on Greek fare like "ouzo cured salmon tartar." If you're hungry for something larger, the "[Big] Platters" promise to serve "2-3 people or 1 hungry Greek." These include a Mediterranean fish platter, chef's choice of pasta bowl and "The Greek Platter," a whopping $55 worth of salad, rack of lamb and potatoes. The menu also offers boards stacked with Greek-style meats and/or cheeses. Desserts include a simple Greek yogurt with honey comb, and the more fussy baklava cheesecake for $8 each.
A sweet ending to a rough beginning. But so far so good for THE GREEK.