My friend and I tried Santorini last night, and the food was excellent.
Pita was soft and warm, and srixxled with a very light olive oil and a subtly-sweet dried oregano- definitely not the ubiquitous harsh flaky stuff I tend to avoid. For appetizers, we ordered melitzanosalata and grilled octopus. The melitzanosalata, which is usually one of my favorite things to eat, was the one disappointing dish of the evening. Instead of a thick, creamy sweet roasted eggplant dip, their version was more of a light, diluted-tasting puree that was overwhelmed by what seemed like red pepper (sweet) and unripe tomatoes. That was kind of a bummer for me. The octopus, however, was outrageously good. Grilled perfectly, with just the right amount of tenderness inside and bite on the outside. The octopus itself could not have tasted more fresh (for being grilled) and sweet. But the marinade! The bottom of the dish contained a shallow pool of herbed sweet and sour dressing that was out of this world. I was sorry when the octopus was finished and I couldn't sop up any more of it!
Next, I had the moussaka while my friend had the shrimp saganaki. My moussaka was very good- plenty of well-seasoned beef, well-cooked eggplant slices and rich becamel. While it wasn't the best moussaka I've ever had, I was happy with it, and pleasantly surprised at how non-greasy it was. Not a spot of grease on my plate. The moussaka came with excellent roasted lemon potatoes. I thought the portion was generous- if I had been eating only that dish, then I probably could have finished it. But after octopus and pita, and with potatoes, no way. The moussaka also came with a terrific salad. Fresh cubes of feta and purple olives adorned the top of a fairly large bowl of greens and assorted onions. The fabulous dressing was served on the side. This was no typical red wine vinegar dressing- this was heavenly. I think they must have used a very fruity vinegar (raspberry?), for this tangy dressing, as it had a truly lovely contrast of tart, sweet and salty- yes, there were tiny crumbles of feta in it, as well. But my favorite part of the salad was the stuffed grape leaf, which was possibly the best I have ever had: lemony, creamy and satisfyingly chewy, with just the right amount of subtle bitterness from the tender leaf.
My friend's shrimp (I could only manage one shrimp with a hefty spoonful of sauce) was delicious. The shrimp was juicy and the feta and peppers gave a nice twist to the chunky tomato sauce. The sauce was a little bit too sweet for my taste, but still very good. She ordered the beets with skordalia side dish, as well, and seemed to really enjoy it. I considered trying it, but decided not to push it with so much food in front of me. It did look good, though.
Now, a word about the service:
Our experience started off on the wrong foot, with a valet who ignored us for a full ten minutes. We sat directly in front of the valet sign, at times having to move to allow other cars to pass. We actually weren't sure that the guy dressed as a valet was, in fact, the valet because he clearly wasn't acting like one. We sat there waiting for someone else to appear, possibly with keys in hand, but no one did. After a while, we got frustrated and my friend dropped me off while she went to park. She met me in the vestibule a few minutes later, and told me that he was, indeed, the valet- she saw him helping others as she was walking in. I did not care for that at all!
The host/manager seemed frazzled, but pleasant. He was a little bit too busy to be friendly, and I saw him fail to answer guests as they walked out and wished *him* a good night, but I think this was due to distraction, considering how busy they were. He also kept mumbling under his breath about diners who refused to leave and open up tables. The servers are not professional. They are slow and slightly begrudging- it took forever for them to clean an empty table for us, as they were clearly more interested in engaging other patrons in conversation as a small crown gathered in the entranceway. Once the table was clean, the man just barely looked at us and gestured to it. We escorted ourselves over and sat down :)
Our server was perfunctory and a little bit gruff. I didn't really mind, though, because I could tell that this was very much a family-run business, and if my uncle had been the one taking orders, he probably would have acted a lot like this guy :) He only warmed up toward the end, when my friend started speaking to him in Greek. Then he was all smiles!
We had no room left for dessert, as one by-product of slow service is having way too much time to linger over your food when you're already stuffed. Then again, compulsive overindulgence is usually a good sign when it comes to food, right?
I heartily recommend Santorini. Just don't expect professional service, and know that there probably will be a wait during heavy traffic hours, even with a reservation.
I will definitely be back- their gyro and tzatziki looked great, and I must have a whole order of dolmadakia next time.
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