With many close Greek friends growing up and now Greek members of the family, I look forward to celebrating the cuisine of Greece and the Mediterranean whenever possible. So, when Demetri Tsolakis of Committee, the hot new restaurant to hit the Seaport - and the new place to be, invited us over for dinner it was only a question of when. In fact, we left the beaches of Maine and cut short our holiday just to make dinner reservations there. And we do suggest making a reservation. It's that popular.
Greek culture offers a unique dining experience, other than the fact that it is not unusual for dinner to commence at 10:00 p. m. and last for many hours. It is a very social, drawn out affair with lots of small plates and much wine and/or cocktails consumed. It is not short on bold flavors. The atmosphere is one of celebration where the interaction with others is central. Dining is an important, serious celebration of life. And you can feel that whole concept the minute you walk into the airy, modern industrial designed restaurant. There are many tables filled with groups of friends or associates, six to ten people all sharing plates, laughing, talking, sipping drinks and in absolutely no rush to leave. Dining here is not a stop before going to an event. It is THE event.
We began with drinks. This is the Smoke Show: Strawberry Infused Mayalen Mezcal, Aperol, Amaro #4 and Sweet Vermouth with a Candied Bacon Strip. Yes, it's boozy but not overpowering, meant to be sipped slowly, savoring each drop of it's smoky goodness. And that little red clothespin holding the bacon on was a whimsical touch that signaled this was meant to be a fun night out.
Grape Leaf Dolmades with Rice, Sumac and Pine Nut. Friends who have prepared these for me at their homes will often add a healthy dose of mint, something I am not exactly a fan of. Sans the mint, I loved these. It was also a great way to start. So much of traditional Greek cuisine is simple and straightforward, not prettied up or lavishly dressed like, perhaps, French haute cuisine. The moment you sit down a basket of warm pita bread slices and a frothy feta and red pepper sauce is brought to you. Not the most photogenic of plates yet instantly welcoming and satisfying. We followed this with Baba Ganoush: Charred Eggplant and Whipped Tahini (not pictured). Again, a traditional food and about as good as it gets.
As mentioned, everything is small plates called meze, served cold and hot. Most diners will begin with the cold, then warm, grazing, tasting and sipping as the night moves on.
Yogurt Marinated Chicken Skewers with Spiced Honey Sauce. Often, skewered strips of chicken are a combination of burnt and raw. These were perfect. The meat was white but not overly firm, and it was succulent. The plate is served with only two skewers which was somewhat of a tease as they were so good. Then again, there was yet much more to taste.
Eggplant: Braised Chickpea and Eggplant, Clay-Baked with Sweet Sauce. Again, not the most beautiful thing you'll see and not fancied up with Versace plates or other unnecessary gimmicks but it hits all the right flavor notes.
Grilled Haloumi: Cypriot Cheese with Blistered Grapes and Ouzo. This was my favorite. The cheese has a very salty bite. The texture is firm but chewy, like a thick caramel. The delicate sweetness of the heated grapes cuts through the salt just beautifully. And then the drizzle of Ouzo. Simple yet layered with so many tastes and sensations.
The crowd was growing. We were now fully relaxed and everyone around us seemed to have lost the sense of rush that invades our days. It was time for another cocktail. Mandarine Sour: Mandarine Napoleon, Cognac, Dry Curacao, Vanilla Syrup, Fresh Lemon Juice, Egg White, Aromatic and Orange Bitters. Best taken in small sips but very refreshing.
Keftedakia: Greek-style Meatballs with Oregano and Tzatziki. Again, simplicity. Greek meatballs may seem drier than the Italian-style, steeped in a simmering vat of sauce for hours, that most are used to. I like them dry. The cooling Tzatziki is the perfect accompaniment.
Lahmajun: Ground Spiced Lamb, Charred Tomato and Nigella, served on a pita crust. As many readers know I am a huge fan of the Lahmajun pie and often stock up in the middle eastern food shops in Watertown. So, needless to say, this was a huge favorite, a very special treat and a hit of the night. It's so much more than just a Mediterranean version of pizza. The delicate flavor of lamb is a top flavor profile in my medley. When you visit, this is not to be missed.
We sampled the Rice Pudding for dessert (not pictured). Some diners may find it bland but the creamy texture and subtle taste is meant to quiet the palate after a night of spicy plates. Americans enjoy huge desserts with tons of sugar and bold, zingy flavors. The Rice Pudding is clearly more subdued and served in a portion for one - not three to five.
Galaktobourekakia: (pictured above) Custard, Phyllo, Honey and Fruit. Half the fun of this dessert is learning how to pronounce it. We'll save the fun for you to enjoy with your server, who just may actually be from Greece, but if you want to seem cultured the last "kia" is silent. However you pronounce it, it's delicious. Layers of textures and flavors.
Needless to say, we would highly recommend a visit. Even if you sit alone with a glass of wine and just have the Lahmajun or Grilled Haloumi, you're bound to feel at home and among new friends. I can absolutely see this as a regular stop whenever we're in the Seaport area.
50 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA 02210