Melanie Wong | Aug 16, 200509:01 PM    

Last month I had a chance to pay a second visit to Estia. My previous time had been during the first week it was open.

Portions are huge here so we ordered one large pikilia (mixed mezes) as an appetizer and three entrees for the four of us. Stephanie and I split a glass of Skouras St. George, $8, made from the Aghiorgitiko red grape that tasted like a cross between Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Can't remember the vintage, but we liked the wine alot with our red meat dinner.

Everything on the large pikilia platter, $13.55, was scrumptious and the soft, pillowy wedges of pita were served warm. The marinated gigantes were my favorite with perfect texture and nice bite. Ultra-smoky melitzanosalata made the eggplant-hater change his mind. The taramasalata was more intense and better than my first visit. The tzatziki was thick and decadently rich. The dolmas were beautifully seasoned with a creamy, chewy rice filling.

On a slow Tuesday night, no seafood specials were offered. My mom picked lamb souvlaki, $13.95. It was cooked more done than the medium she ordered. While nicely seasoned and charred, it was on the tough side because of the overcooking. My sister ordered the youvarlakia (beef meatballs), $13.95, which turned out to be a giant plateful topped with egg-lemon sauce. I had enjoyed this as one of the hot appetizers on the pilikia plate, but that was enough for me. Mixed with rice and onions, the taste became bland after a while. My dad's youvetsi (lamb shank in casserole), $16.85, was the best of the three. Presented on the whole, unsplit shank bone planted dramatically in the casserole's bed of orzo in Excalibur-like fashion, Dad relished digging into the lamb with fork and knife and his surgical training. The texture was spot-on, tender enough to pull from the bone, but not dried-out or mushy. The tomatoe-y sauce had a heart-warming touch of cinnamon spice.

Even with sharing entrees, we had enough leftover for a couple good-sized lunches. We were too stuffed to order dessert, as much as I wanted to have the lavender ice cream again.

Service was slow but solicitous. The owner shifted between this restaurant and his place next door to help out the one waitress who was taking care of four tables. At one point as he admired my dad's gusto for his food, he asked me how old my parents were. I told him and added that my father had just got out of the hospital the day before and asked for lamb shanks for dinner. He said he was honored we'd picked his place for this first restaurant meal and that he always had lamb shanks the next time the craving strikes.

Our tab was $83, including tax and tip, for four with lots of meat to take home.

Estia Greek Eatery [North Beach]
1224 Grant Ave
San Francisco

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