I want to start by saying this is the kind of place you walk into and you feel welcome. I really like the vibe of the place—a lot of families, including the one running the place, and lots of different kind of people from those still wearing work clothes to those clearly on a date, to a young couple who must have been headed to prom. It sort of warms my heart to see all these people, particularly families in an independently-owned restaurant. And I figured it was going to be busy when I called for a reservation and was given either 5:30 or 8:30 as my options. I was back in San Fran for a second. We actually negotiated to 6:00, as long as we promised to get out of there by 7:00, because they had another table coming in. But the very nice lady on the phone was concerned we would feel too rushed and she wanted us to enjoy our meal. She needn’t have worried about the timing; this place cranks the food out quickly. We had three courses, and could have easily fit in dessert in the slightly over an hour we were there.
We had a really hard time deciding on the appetizer because there were many things that sounded good from the saganaki (or flaming goat cheese) to the fried eggplant. But, we started with an order of the spanikopita which is one of my perennial favorites. Spanikopita is a little phyllo based appetizer which is stuffed with spinach and cheese. This was quite different from most I have had, in that it was much crispier, and was hollower in the middle. Hubby and I sat and discussed whether we liked it better or not as much as other spanikopita we have tasted. He decided he liked it more because it wasn’t as heavy. I really enjoyed it, but couldn’t say I liked it more. I would certainly happily eat it again, but I sort of like the even richer versions with more layers of phyllo and more filling. But it was very different, and it was sort of difficult to compare. This was also liberally sprinkled with feta (everything was here, they use feta like other places might use parsley) and served with some very tangy tzaziki which is a tangy yogurt cucumber dip. This is one of the few times I have been served spanikopita with something to dip in, and it was nice. The tzaziki had the requisite tangy flavor, but usually there is more green in it, this was pretty much pure white.
We were next served our salads which came with every entrée (I think you could also get soup if you preferred). It was a nice Greek salad with lettuce, olives, red onion, tomatoes and lots more feta. And it was tossed with a very very tangy vinaigrette. So tangy in fact (which is sort of shocking for me) that I added a little more olive oil to it (there is olive oil and vinegar on every table). We were also given a loaf of garlicky bread from the oven which was quite crispy (bordering on close to burnt actually) and tasty. Interestingly, our second loaf was soft and a little under done so they are obviously heating them all the time. Some get left in the over a little more than others. One right in the middle would have been ideal, but I loved the very garlicky flavor.
For my main, I had the leg of lamb. It was roasted leg of lamb stuffed with large slices of garlic. Now, leg of lamb is probably my favorite lamb dish, although when I cook it at home, I tend to still keep it on the medium rare side. This was very well done. Obviously slow roasted for a long time. The flavor was nice—it retained a really nice lamb flavor and all the garlic was very soft and really good with it. The sauce on it was also nice---clearly just a pure light broth made of the meat stock and garlic and no flavor to overpower the flavor of the meat. It was served with rice pilaf, tomato-ey green beans and Greek potatoes. The sides were just ok, probably the best one being the potatoes which had a lemon flavor that added that nice tart kick to the rich garlicky lamb when eaten together. But just because it was so cooked, and a little too chewy, I probably wouldn’t order it again, although I saw several other people ordering it, and it seemed to be very popular.
Hubby went with the gyros and really enjoyed them. He thought the gyro meat (which is slow roasted lamb and beef combined together and then cut into thin slices) was really good and after eating it understood while the menu offers an option of a side of the gyro meat to any entrée. He enjoyed the whole dish, although wished it hadn’t been so completely covered in the tzaziki because he liked the meat on its own so much.
So as we sat enjoying this meal on this spring day, we discussed the fact that we would certainly come back even if everything we had wasn’t amazing. The food was enjoyable, there are lots of things we would like to try, and the vibe was just a happy one. And with all those singe marks on the ceiling from the saganaki; we are certainly going to have to give it a try soon.
Santorini Greek Kitchen
1417 Prospect Street