Last Friday, a group of 11 chowhounds gathered for dinner and "dancing" at the Minerva Cafe, located at the corner of Bush and Divisadero. The atmosphere was warm and friendly and the food was delicious. The live band played music throughout dinner, people danced and threw money. Melanie took pics of the food and the dancing, so we will see which ones make it to the board.
Now for the food:
Everyone voted for their 2 favorite appetizers and their 1 favorite entree.
Sanganaki (8 votes): Greek kasseri cheese flambe'd with brandy at the table. The presentation was wonderful and the crust of the cheese was crispy and flavorful. This was the favorite appetizer.
Marinated white anchovy fillets (3 votes): Anchovies marinated in lemon juice and olive oil. This was one of my favorites - the fish was fresh, clean, and simply prepared.
Charbroiled octopus: W/ olive oil and lemon juice. Also very simple, but the texture was chewy.
5 dips: taramousalata, melitzanosalat, tzatziki, garlic dip, and hummus: Everyone loved the taramousalata, which is made of cod roe and olive oil. At first it tasted salty, and then the fish taste came through in the end. Rich and wonderful.
Spanakopita (5 votes): spinach and feta cheese wrapped in phyllo dough. I thought it was good, but I've had ones just as good before....I'll let someone else say why it was their favorite.
Feta cheese: good and not too salty
Marinated olives: also good
Dolmas (5 votes): The first 2 orders of the meat stuffed grape leaves were heavenly. They arrived steaming hot and the texture was very soft. They were stuffed with mostly beef and some rice. The flavoring was more complex than other dolmas I've had - these ones had more cardamom, and no mint. We ordered 3 more plates and they were disappointing compared to the first two plates. They had more rice than beef and the flavor was not as good. The vegetarian dolmas are cold and are stuffed with mostly rice. They tasted like the average dolma you can get anywhere else.
Lemon soup: Made with lemon juice, homemade-tasting chicken stock, pepper, and thickener. I really liked this, but I have no basis for comparison.
Greek salad: veggies tossed in a lemon dressing
Mousaka (5 votes): potatoes and eggplant topped with bechemel sauce. I'll let someone else comment on this one since I'm not a fan of eggplant.
Pastitsio: ziti pasta, ground beef, bechemel sauce. For me, this was a bit on the bland side.
Marinated pork souvlaki: Pork with peppers, onions, and mushrooms, served with rice. The pork was overcooked.
Roast leg of lamb: in a madeira sauce with potatoes and spinach. The meat was very soft, the sauce was good. The spinach was slightly sweet and contained raisins and pine nuts.
Lamb shank osso bucco (6 votes): Excellent. Everyone on my half of the table raved about it. Feel free to rave on the board. This was my first so I don't have anything to compare this to. From what I could tell, the sauce was bold and well-balanced. So far, this is one of my favorite preparations of lamb shank.
99 Boutari Kretikos Red Wine of Crete
NV Kourtaki Retsine of Attica
94 J.M. et F. Alquier "La Maison Jaune" Reserve Faugeres
00 Hatzi Michalis Cabernet Sauvignon Atlanti Valley
97 David Coffaro Estate Cuvee Dry Creek Valley
Thanks to Melanie and Zach and Minerva Cafe for the wine!
What a great time! The food came out piping hot, the staff was friendly, and the owner stopped by the table to talk and dance. The food bill ended up being $25 per person, including a generous tip.