My big, fat, Greek date night
It’s a hot monogamy Saturday night date at the Greek Village Inn with Mrs. Lucas. Except Mrs. Lucas decides she doesn’t want to be in the restaurant review.
OK. So instead, I’m sitting in a booth with Brandi. Yeah, Brandi-With-a-Heart-Over-the-“I.” She’s fiendishly bodacious. And brunette. Wearing red. Pretty much everything Brandi-With-a-Heart-Over-the-“I” is supposed to be.
The only thing separating us is the plentiful $14.25 Pikilia platter—roasted beets, spanakopita, tyropita, veggie dolmathes, tzatziki, pita, Kalamata olives. I lack objectivity on beets; never had a bad one. The pita twins—spanko and tyro, filled with spinach and feta and cheese and egg, respectively—are phyllo-á-go-go.
Brandi, a vegetarian, doesn’t dig dolmathes, veggie or otherwise. The grape-leaf-encased rectangles get two thumbs up from the other side of the table, however. Extra tzatziki and a frosty Mythos lager enhance the appetizers.
It’s puzzling in a city with such a strong Greek community that there aren’t more strong, traditional Greek restaurants like the Greek Village Inn.
The feta cheese is a slice above. It’s a rare place that offers the high tableside drama of saganaki, brandy-flamed kasseri cheese extinguished with lemon juice. Were it spelled with a heart over the “I,” we would have gone there in a heartbeat, as two other folks delightedly did.
The $3.95 cup of avgolemono, Greek lemon and rice soup, is authoritative. Calorie-rich, the artful melding of tastes is leavened somewhat by knowing it’s a major contributor to a cholesterol subdivision on the side of some hapless artery.
Brandi is not joyous when Anthony the waiter tells her the restaurant no longer stocks sparkling water. This could be the proximate cause for her bleak assessment of the wine list: “Limited.” Despite the bad news he lays on Brandi, Anthony is a top-notch waiter: brisk, attentive, well-schooled about the menu.
Oddly, there’s a carbonara offering. As a certifiable carbonara fanatic, it’s sorely tempting to pay the $15.25 and travel west across the Adriatic to Italy. Parenthetically, tossing spaghetti in a skillet’s remaining bacon grease creates the best carbonara. Deliriously good. But if avgolemono is a subdivision, this is a cholesterol metropolis.
Anthony’s judgment prevails and the Grecian plate, $18.95, gets the nod: two perfectly cooked lamb chops—not too pink, not too charred, not too dry—accompanied by more of the pita twins, potatoes and dolmathes. Whole lotta starch going on, to paraphrase Jerry Lee Lewis. Most of the potatoes survive the meal.
Brandi bonds with the $9.25 horiatiki salad: feta, Kalamata, cucumbers, green bell peppers, tomatoes, red onions. She is enthusiastic in both her praise and appetite.
The ownership and many of the particulars of the Village Inn remain unchanged from Liz Kellar’s detailed September 12, 2002 review in these pages. Cathy Tsakopoulos-LaGesse and her husband, Leo, still work their magic. Leo rides shotgun this evening. However, the gyros sandwich Liz’s husband ordered six-odd years ago—another hot monogamy date perhaps?—now is $11.25, up from $9.75.
On a night at home when neither of us feels like knocking out a meal, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named usually suggests hitting one of two places in our neighborhood. First choice is Café Vinoteca, owned by Jane and Jim Ison. Jane is you-know-who’s friend since childhood. Jane and I go back a quarter-century. There’s creative Italian fare, lots of homegrown organic vegetables and fabled banana-cream pie, all of which are sharply improved by one or both of the owners sitting down with us.
Similarly, we’ve been pals with Lemon Grass’ Mai Pham since the horse-and-buggy days of George Deukmejian’s governorship. The monk’s curry and spicy tofu make this an attractive option for that vegetarian who isn’t Brandi. As a bonus, our vegetable-adverse daughter goes goo-goo for Mai’s salad rolls. Either place ends up in the $60 to $70-plus range—just as we do at the Village Inn.
Seems like it might be time to add another joint to the rotation.
Anthony’s stellar service raises the grade to appealing and a half.