Wednesday, November 12, 2008

El Greco

3016 Guadalupe Suite C200
Austin, Texas 78705

I don't know about y'all, but I had a pretty harrowing week. It seems like the stars have aligned for destruction and mischief this week. Several friends of mine have lost their jobs, there was a catfight on Lake Travis, I had a midterm, AND I had the extreme misfortune of having to work on Sunday. I had been planning on going to DFW with my girlfriend Becky and enjoying her company on a short girls roadtrip. But no, my boss had other plans for my weekend. As if that weren't enough, most of my other friends had decided to be unavailable and/or out of town so I was left to my own devices Saturday night. But instead of sitting in a bubble bath with a bottle of Pinot Noir and waxing poetic on negatives of being perpetually single, and I decided to call up Bachelor #6 and go on a date.

I've gone out with Bachelor #6 a few times now. On one date in particular, we had ventured to El Greco on a Sunday evening and were disappointed to discover they were closed. We consoled ourselves with a fat deep dish pizza from Mangia's next door, but the the seed was planted, I wanted Greek food. Now my friends all know this, however I may not have mentioned this to you readers, but I get violent food cravings. And I don't just crave Mexican food or Thai food, I crave very specific things and at odd times. There have been more than a few times where I've woken up in the middle of the night, sat bolt upright in bed, and been hit with the most power craving for lettuce wraps, or fried chicken, or Lucky Charms cereal. I don't pretend to understand them. Some people say cravings happen when you are deficient in a certain type of nutrient that's present in the food. But what kind of nutrient is in Lucky Charms?

After out disappointment at El Greco, I started to intensely crave dolmas. The odd combination of the less than appetizing domas from the Steeping Room combined with my vivid imagination left me literally dreaming about lemon soaked grape leaves stuffed with tender meat and rice. So when Bachelor #6 called and asked if I wanted to go there Saturday night, I jumped at the chance. Dolmas here I come!!

El Greco is in an new-ish strip mall across from Wheatsville Co-Op on Guadalupe. I spent the better half of 5 years living withing a block of 29th and Guadalupe and am quite familiar with all the eateries in that area. I was surprised when someone mentioned a great Greek restaurant near 29th and Guadalupe. At first I assumed they were talking about Milto's or Tom's Tabooley, neither of which are that spectacular. But when I was informed there was a NEW Greek restaurant, I had to try it. It only took me a year to make my way there. A pity too, because they're worth eating at.

When I first walk in the door, there was a counter and a large register, so I had to ask if this was a sit down then order or an order then sit down kind of place. I was informed that it was an order than sit down place. I thought I'd tell you that so you don't hesitate when you enter like I did. The decor on the inside is typical Greek restaurant. Functional and boring, with whimsical extras thrown in. In this case, the whimsical extra is a large waterfall fountain by the bathrooms. A little out of place. I always think of large water features as being gaudy and tasteless extravagances of the nouveau riche. So I didn't think well of it, but my date did mention that he liked it (and i don't think he was being sarcastic). But you don't go to Greek restaurants to be wowed by the decor. You go to eat tasty tasty Greek food. And El Greco delivers.

After months of my Greek food hiatus, I was having a hard time picking want to order. My eyes were definitely going to be larger than my stomach. I wanted a savory spanikopita, a crispy tiropita, some creamy tzatski and pita, a smooth hummus, a tangy avgolemono soup. But I didn't want to pig out on my date, so I stuck with my original craving, domlas. And since we had to order all at once, I got the gyro plate while my date went with the Souvlaki plate. We sat down in the back of the restaurant next to the "water feature" and were surprised when our dolmas came out after only a few minutes.

I was a little disappointed by the dolmas. They were pretty average as far as dolmas go. They're texture of the stuffing was more mushy than firm, and the rice on the inside was a little too overcooked for my taste. The flavor was pleasant but they lacked meat which is a big minus in my opinion. Now I know dolmas can be serve with or without meat, but I was really hoping for a nice spiced lamb or beef mixed in the rice. The gyro platter, on the other hand, was absolutely wonderful. The meat was fresh and roasted in house, not the processed (but tasty) lamb "leg" you get a shaving off of at a normal Greek restaurant. The flavor was subtle but perfectly suited for the juicy grilled meat that was offered. The side of Greek pilaf and Greek peas (mm, where can you get a side of peas anymore??) were tasty and well executed - the flavorful peas being my favorite. My date's souvlaki was great, again fresh and well grilled, but a run of the mill kabob.

For dessert we ordered my personal favorite dessert of all time, baklava, and a newcomer to my taste buds, ekmek kataifi. The baklava had a wonderful flavor, but it was spiral roll was really different and new. Usually baklava (like most of you know) comes as a thick slice of layered fillo, nuts, honey and best of all butter. The spiral wrap yields an overall smaller product with a higher fillo to nut mixture ratio. If you like the crispness of the fillo the spiral packing will appeal to you, I however am a fan of the nuts, honey and butter, so I was a little disappointed, but I ate it and loved it nonetheless. The ekmek kataifi was really different and equally tasty. A layer of honey soaked shredded fillo (resembling shredded wheat) topped with a thick semolina custard. The crunch of the fillo and the smooth coldness of the custard are a nice balance and we inhaled the whole dish while drinking our Greek coffee.

Oh and for the record (to appease whoever you are, random mean commenter), I did pay half.

Bottom Line: Great fresh Greek food in convenient central location

Mariah - 8.5