(photo credit: PR)
There’s a sense of home at Greco not just because the Souvlaki and Ouzo Bar was modeled after a quaint Greek kitchen – with metallic saucers and jars of pickled goods lining the walls – but because the color scheme is blue and white.
Then you remember that the Greek flag is blue and white, like Israel’s.
After looking at the generous menu of dishes with strange-sounding names, it’s clear that the cuisine, too, is strikingly similar: gyros are like shwarma, kpúo is like fava bean hummus, tzatziki is like labane.
The year-old Greco is a place for authentic Greek food that has a comforting, Israeli familiarity. Call it Hellenistic cuisine. Its location in the up-and-coming commercial center in the exclusive, secluded Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ezor Chen makes it an appealing Hellenist getaway.
Greco’s owner, Tzviki Eshet, is conquering this compound with a new gelateria and bakery next door, in addition to his Grinberg Diner.
In creating the menu, Eshet and his chef took on the Herculean task of touring Greece, especially mom and pop joints, to bring Israel the best of homemade Greek cuisine, made with the finest ingredients. Some dishes are even named after the Greek locals, but they’ve retained sensitivity to the Israeli palate. Israeli locals attest to the success of their journey. Even in the middle of a January storm, the place was full, with the festive bouzouki music playing at just the right volume to allow for good conversation.
Like at any Israeli grill (but Greco is far from being anything like an Israeli grill), you can start with an array of mazettim. If you’re part of a group, opt for the assortment of 10 items (NIS 170). The tzatziki (NIS 30) and tikokafteri – cheese spread with roasted peppers – (NIS 28) were so fresh and fluffy, like eating a cloud, that you’d think the cow was milked in the back. The fresh bread and pita were a perfect canvas on which to slather the spreads. Among our other favorite salads were the florina – roasted red peppers sprinkled with feta – (NIS 32); Katrina’s beet salad (NIS 46); and dolma grape leaves (NIS 34).
Warning: The 12 gods’ pastry (NIS 48) from the hot starter section was so divine that once we tasted it, all the other dishes – however good – seemed mediocre by comparison. The contrast between perfectly fried, crispy filo dough and soft, salty cheese, all bathed in a honey elixir, made it deserving of its name. The spanakopita (NIS 42) was like a glorious spinach/feta bureka but rested in the shadow of the 12 gods’ pastry.
There’s nothing like a Mikoko cocktail (NIS 38), made with ouzo and grapefruit juice, to cleanse the palate for the main dish. Even those who don’t normally like anise liqueur would likely find it tasty and refreshing.
While the kpúo fava puree may be a novelty for some, it’s like hummus in the sense that you have to be in the mood for it. The heaping helping of the veal and lamb gyro (NIS 58 – plenty for two), grilled like shwarma, was mild-flavored on its own; but mixed with all the condiments that come with it – the tahini, tzatziki, the Greek hot sauce, red onion and roasted tomatoes, all resting on the Greek pita – it was a satisfying Greek culinary icon. But once you get this rite of passage out of the way, you’ll surely want to experiment with another main dish on a second visit, which Greco surely deserves.The writers were guests of the restaurant.
Greco Souvlaki and Ouzo Bar
25 A.Z. Grinberg St., Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 741-1022