After sampling some Greek wines on Tuesday night, my palate was primed for something from the region for lunch the next day. Ive been noticing the night time crowds at the new taverna on Van Ness when I drive by and thought it was time to do the taste test. Unfortunately, I took a hit but perhaps the sacrifice was worth it for the greater good of the chowhound pack.
At lunch time I was the only patron after 1pm. The numerous hot and cold appetizers on the menu were not translated. My waitress needed to pull out her cheat sheet to answer my questions, and she also had not tried the dishes to make recommendations. Not a huge problem, I ordered the cold octopus ($7.95) and the spanokopita ($3.50, spinach pie).
The first dish to appear was the spinach pie. Just from visual inspection, the prospects for deliciousness did not look good. The filling was more in the gray spectrum than vibrant green, taking on the olive drab hue of overcooked spinach. The top phyllo pastry crust looked damp, and when tapped with the tines of the fork was not at all crisp. Cutting through, the bottom crust was white and raw. Tasting it confirmed that the pastry was thoroughly soggy and the dilled spinach-feta filling was tired in flavor. I signaled to my waitress, pointed out that this was undercooked, soggy and obviously reheated in the microwave, and asked for a fresh serving. She took it away immediately and returned with the word from the kitchen that this dish is always microwaved and another serving would be the same. She offered to take it off my bill and brought me a menu to order something else. I switched to the Greek sausage sandwich ($5.50).
Meanwhile my octopus appetizer was ready. Warmish rather than cool or cold, I guess it was cooked to order. The octopus had nice texture with some resistance to the bite but tender, and it was cut from a large creature affording some of the jellied bits. Unfortunately, the marinade was excruciatingly acidic. I added salt to the mix to buffer the acid and it required an amazing amount to titrate the pH to an edible range. At that point it still had an off-chemically taste in the marinade.
Next up was the sandwich that was a split sausage rolled in a fluffy fresh pita and garnished with yogurt sauce, thin slices of parsleyed onions, and roma tomato wedges. The sausage was spiced to perfection as described on the menu and made of rubbery mystery meat tasty enough though. The yogurt sauce was thick and creamy and the onions were freshly sliced and not sulfurous. I did note that the kitchen didnt bother to cut the green stem end off the tomato. The kitchen may not be able to cook, but it can assemble a sandwich.
The upshot is that the cooking here seems indifferent and uncaring. My waitress was sweet but inexperienced. The white table cloths and fresh flowers in the décor lead one to expect more. With but one customer in the house to serve, the kitchen was unable to impress or rise above mediocre. Because Id love San Francisco to have a good Greek restaurant, I truly hope I can be proven wrong but it doesnt look promising at this point.
O Mythos Tavern
2424 Van Ness