Greece. Cradle of civilization. The land of Athens and Sparta, Zeus and Poseidon, Oedipus Rex and Antigone. The Iliad and The Odyssey, neither of which were written down in ancient times, but were instead memorized and retold time and again by wandering rhapsodes (storytellers) who traveled the land from sea to Aegean Sea. Yes, that Greece. Pretty impressive, huh? Well, if you think Greek history, culture, and mythology are incredible, just wait until you try their food. I was lucky growing up to know a most marvelous Greek family, whose Mama freely gave wise (and often hilarious) counsel, and whose Yaya (grandmother) baked fresh, homemade baklava for us on special occasions. Recently, my lovely wife The Rock Star and I realized that too much time had gone by without sampling the cuisine of The Hellenic Republic, and dutifully made our way to Zorba's Greek Cafe one recent Saturday eve.
When you walk in, it's just like stepping into a scene from the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," or else a private house in Thessaloniki, take your pick. Lots of homey wooden chairs and tables covered with red checkered tablecloths. Lots of little dining rooms stitched together like so many tapestries. Lots of china, glassware, and photos crammed into every available nook and cranny. Plus, a fair sprinkling of Apollos and Aphrodites amongst the diners. (Let's face it, Greek people are very attractive. It must be all the fish and olive oil in their diet.) All that's needed to make you think you're in a neighborhood cafe near the Acropolis is a view of the Parthenon. We were seated immediately at a smallish two-top near the center of the action.
First off, let me make it abundently clear that Zorba's is BYOB, and that those words should make your heart flutter. You see, if a place is Bring Your Own Bottle ($2.50 corkage, self-service, but they provide winged corkscrew and glassware), it cuts down significantly on your costs. We selected and brought a bottle of Genesis Washington State syrah, which proved a perfect companion for the evening's repast. Several appetizing-looking starters were listed, but if you truly love theatre (and I do), you will select the saganaki appetizer. Not only is the rather mild cheese served with chewy chips of tasty pita bread, it is flamed beforehand in a dazzling ceremony in which the waiter pours the combustable liquid atop, flicks his Bic, shouts "Opa," then quenches the flames by squeezing lemons over them, adding a citrusy sheen to the dish. Normally, my lovely wife and I love a little bit of everything when we dine, so we decided to split the Zorba's platter. We chose lamb for our souvlaki, and were rewarded with slightly charred, perfectly juicy Greek skewers, definitely the highlight of our meal. Tender gyros ranked a close second, and the long strands of luscious lamb were so flavorful I ate them sans pita and toppings. My bride loved the broiled sausage, declaring "The Germans have got nothing on the Greeks when it comes to sausage!" Quite a statement indeed. Pastiso proved a texturally-fascinating macaroni and cheese flan with meat. Honestly, that's the only way I can describe it, you'll have to try it yourself. Good Greek potatoes rounded out our platter, with enough food to dine heartily and take some home afterwards. On second thought, the Ek Mek dessert may well have been the high point: Ultrathin sheets of phyllo pastry drenched in honey and crowned with custard and whipped cream, like baklava on overdrive. With no more room in the inn, as it were, we soon took our satisfied leave.
SERVICE & WEBSITE
Yanni (the waiter, not the musician) proved both personable and adept, handling the flaming appetizer with dignified flair, and readily agreeing to our dessert choice. (Ek Mek is his personal favorite as well.) Website is http://www.zorbasplano.com/, and includes complete catering information and prices, useful with Super Bowl Sunday approaching.
You will feel like you've died and gone to Greece at Zorba's Greek Cafe. Enjoy their Mediterranean hospitality soon, and don't forget:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!