Given the lack of Greek food in Boston, we were excited to try hot newcomer Meze Estiatorio (100 City Square, Charlestown; 617-242-6393) for dinner last Friday night. Located on the corner of Constitution Ave and Rutherford Ave, just past the Charleston Bridge, the restaurant is an attractive although somewhat bland large space decorated in white pine and stone tiles, with large Greek country photos on the walls. A long bar and open kitchen in the rear, and the ample windows feature a nice view of the Zakim Bridge at night (although our last-minute reservation resulted in our being stuck way in the back next to the bus boys).
Meze in the restaurants name refers to the small tapas-like dishes they feature, and when seated we were presented with separate meza and main course menus, along with what appeared to be a very Greek-centric wine list (which, for those of us unfamiliar with Greek wine, included a nice explanation of the different varieties). Oddly, the menus are rather enormous in size and didnt exactly fit on our tiny table for two (our waitress mentioned how she had been trying to convince the management this was a problem, so far unsuccessfully). Also, this is one of the noisiest spaces Ive ever been in, approximately matching the dull roar inside Quincy Market. Definitely not the place for an intimate dinner for two (in fact, the table next to us brought the baby and stroller!). Service was attentive at the start, but noticeably declined as the evening went on. Uninteresting bread was served with excellent garlicy hummus and olives drenched in oil.
The extensive meze menu ran ~$7 per dish and was divided into hot and cold selections. We tried the obligatory Saganaki, a pan-fried cheese flamed (not at the table) in brandy, and Souvlakia, heavily flavored kabobs of chicken, beef and pork. The salt and spice of these two dishes was perfectly matched with a white wine made from Assyrtiko grapes (Heliopoulos 2001, $30), which Ive never had before. Perhaps too acidic for the rest of the meal, but a really good match for the heavily seasoned dishes. Based on the few meze we observed around us, it would be very easy to make a dinner from three or so of these dishes (the Souvlakia had six nice size skewers).
For a main course (most ~$20, plus or minus) I ordered Kouneli Stifado, a supposedly Corfu-style rabbit stew with tomatoes, carrots, red wine and rice pilaf, served in a cast iron bowl. Flavorful, basic country-style cooking, although the rabbit was slightly dry (easy to do with such a lean meat). My wife ordered Brizola, a grilled beef tenderloin (~10 oz) in a pepper sauce with asparagus and mashed potatoes. A very tender piece of meat, but like the rabbit it was not particularly unusual (or noticeably Greek). Perhaps we should have been more adventuresome, although much of the main course menu seemed at best Greek inspired, and at worst, Continental.
Desert was a very utilitarian Crème Brulee flavored with barely detectable Ouzo and much to lightly caramelized for my taste. However, the individually wrapped, egg roll-like Baklava was probably the best Ive ever had (but served with an uninteresting, ice-like honey ice cream). Not too sweet and stuffed with tons of chopped walnuts. Delicious!
All in all a nice meal, particularly in the Greek-starved Boston restaurant landscape, although as I noted many of the main courses didnt seem particularly Greek. Since it is only a ten-minute walk from my house, if it werent for the excessive noise I might become a regular. But definitely worth a trip back. $120 + tip for two.