Last month Zach and I tired of waiting for Minerva Cafe to open for business and needed a Greek fix. With a year's time, my memory of a bad meal at O Mythos(http://www.omythos.com/) soon after it had opened had faded and I dared venture back there. Zach's recall of his last visit had also grown dim. He had been drinking and celebrating with his buddies and has a vague recollection of doing a Greek dance solo. (g)
On a Wednesday night, the taverna was a ghost town. Only one other party came in that evening. Our waitress was pleasant enough. While she didn't speak any Greek, she did understand more about the menu than when my earlier experience.
Zach chose some mezes to start: saganaki, fried smelt, and skordalia. We shared two glasses of white wine, Boutari Retsina and something of native variety. The first pour of the unknown wine was oxidized and our waitress opened a second bottle that was fine.
The saganaki was the best of the appetizers, despite a bobble in the service. Our server dropped the cut half of lemon that she was supposed to squeeze over the flaming cheese. She was distressed that it would not taste right to add the lemon later, so I reassured her that the lemon had bounced rind side down on the floor and to go ahead and use it. I assumed that whatever it might have picked up would be incinerated in the flame. (g)
The smelt were overdone. Nice breading, but the flesh and bones had turned to dryish and chewy texture. The skordalia was more like garlic mashed potatoes in consistency and light on garlic.
When Zach saw me curl up my nose at my first taste of Retsina, he assured me it would be better with some feta cheese and ordered that too. It was somewhat better, but this is still not a craved thing for me. THe base wine of the Boutari was actually of pretty good quality, I just didn't like the camphor chest and turpentine smell.
For entrees, we shared the pastisio and the gouvetsi (lamb shank with orzo baked in casserole). The pastisio was good with creamy bechamel, quite a bit of meat sauce and assertive cinnamon and cardomom in the seasoning. The lamb shank was overly dried out, tired and stale tasting, like it had been held in the refrigerator for several days hoping someone would order it. I'd brought a bottle of 1994 Jasmin Cote Rotie from my cellar that was very nice with both dishes.
Now that we've tried out Minerva Cafe (on a Friday night with live music), I can draw some comparisons. On a week night, Mythos offers little ethnic color or ambience other than a clean and pleasant dining room (see below). Minerva's saganaki and lamb shank were superier, however, Mythos' pastisio was far and away better. Also entree portions at Mythos were more generous for about the same pricing. It's a toss-up between them food-wise, and comparison of the music and atomosphere on a weekend might be the deciding factor.