Once upon a time (the nineties) in a land far, far away (ok, Los Angeles), tucked away in the corner of a most unlikely spot (The Beverly Connection Shopping Center) was a marvelous Greek cafe. Once through the doorway, you were whisked away to the island of Santorini, surrounded by murals depicting the whitewashed buildings of Thira, scarlet bougainvillea, the glistening Aegean just beyond. The food was good; the air redolent of lamb, oregano and lemons-- Greek music charming us quietly in the background. Who knew that Greece was this easily accessible? Twelve or so years down the line, this wonderful oasis is gone. And though I dearly miss my shopping center portal to the Mediterranean, happily Le Petit Greek's Larchmont Village restaurant lives happily on.
Nine pm on a hot, September night. Traffic on the sidewalk is nonstop; girls on bicycles; a parade of parents pushing strollers,;laughing young adults in fashionable attire; families bearing pizza boxes or ice cream cones; couples walking dogs. Although Le Petit Greek offers two two darkened and cozy dining rooms or a large outdoor seating area, this night begs for a chilled bottle of white wine and a sidewalk table.
It's fitting, I think, that someplace like Le Petit Greek should exist in as charming an area as Larchmont, another kind of oasis in the middle of Los Angeles. With its rows of fashionable eateries, Le Petit Greek is still a standout-- leading you down the block by the sheer aroma of the food. I kid you not-- we were walking down the block, looking for the restaurant, when the beckoning hand of aroma wafted past our faces and more or less dragged us to the door. When food smells like this, it's a good sign that you're in for a treat. My nose does not lie.
The Nassiakos Moscofilero was light, crisp and floral with a wonderful bouquet. I'm sure I look like a nutcase sitting there sniffing my wine as long as I do. I may not notice the color of your eyes, your height or what you've been wearing, but I will tell you that the picture of the slim, chilled bottle of wine on the table placed next to a glass of satiny, amber wine was stunning-- and if I'd been one of those people who photographs food, that would have been a stunner against the blurred out urban background.
The wine, by the way, was just fine with taramosalata (mashed fish roe and olive oil dip), tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber and garlic dip) and lovely warm triangles of pita. The horiatiki (rustic salad of exquisitely fresh chunks of tomato, cucumber, red onion, kalamata olives and feta) was spot on for a night such as this, and I still think Le Petit Greek serves some of the best feta I've ever tasted. Octapodi are tender, bite-sized chunks of grilled octopus, dressed with lemon. My salmon arrived with a crispy sear and moist interior, accompanied by a huge portion of amazing roasted vegetables I could happily have dined on by themselves (peppers, onions, eggplant, asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower). Herbed lemon roasted potatoes were addictive. A generous portion of excellent moussaka was served with the same sides. The lamb kebab melted into a blissful medium-rare concoction on my palate-- the best lamb, my husband he claimed, he had eaten in years. As far as sweets go, we found the baklava is sweet and reliable, galactobourico (described as "Traditional vanilla custard wrapped in filo, served with cinnamon ice cream) custardy and satisfying. The last time we visited, we were given a generous portion of kataifi free of charge (custard, honey, shredded wheat and a drizzling of chocolate). Any of these desserts is a fitting conclusion to a lovely meal; I'm sure the ones we haven't yet sampled are just as good.
Service at Le Petit Greek is low key but attentive. The folks here understand that dining isn't just the action of stuffing food into your mouth, rather it's a relaxed even to be savored. They can and will shift into an alternate gear if your time is limited: on more than one occasion, we've chosen to stop there for pre-theatre dining. In both cases, the server made sure that we were out in plenty of time, yet still managed to maintain a dining experience which seemed leisurely and well-paced.
Go. And take a long, lingering whiff of the moscofilero.
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