A friend and I were looking for light eats on Friday night, and after passing the long waits at Bursa and Fresca, I remembered that Orexi (243 West Portal) opened on Tuesday. We were extremely pleased by our visit!
Upon walking in, the place was lively and almost full with a couple of two-tops that allowed us to sit right away. There is a communal table in the middle that centers the space. The dark, high ceiling-ed interior belied the erstwhile Round Table Pizza presence, making it an inviting space. The only drawbacks were that the high ceilings made acoustics less-than-ideal and it was a bit drafty in the front and back of the restaurant.
We ordered a bottle of wine and a number of appetizers. The wine list is equally split between Greek and California selections, and we blindly picked a Pelopponese red that went wonderfully with the food with a light, California pinot quality. At $38/bottle, it was one of 3 Greek reds under $40.
We ordered the lamb carpaccio ($10.95) which consisted of cured lamb loin with arugula, capers and shaved kefalotyri cheese (reminded me of parmesean). The dish was well presented and fresh tasting. I thought the lamb lacked some flavor but was balanced with the salt from the capers and cheese.
We also tried the grilled octopus ($10.75) with a light dressing. The portion was quite hearty for an appetizer and the texture of the octopus was melt-in-your-mouth. I have never had octopus so tender. I would have preferred a bit more char on the octopus itself and the dish was a tad oversalted, but I would order again and again!
An order of the taramosalata (one of 4 housemade spreads at $6 ea. or all 4 for $17), the fish roe based spread, was a perfectly balanced scoop of creamy, salty, fishy goodness. The accompanying flat bread was wonderful. I'm not sure what it was but it was brandished with grill marks, slightly crisp on the outside, and hot and soft inside.
Throwing some vegetables into the mix we ordered the gigantes ($7), a crock of large white beans in a tomato sauce and topped with feta. These were tasty, tomatoey, and the beans were perfectly cooked. They verged on simple, and perhaps a bit quotidian, however the sauce does make a great dip for the house bread.
Finally we tried the grilled lamb riblets ($9) which was my favorite dish. Six smallish ribs with 2-3 bites of tender, perfectly charred lamb. The server suggested I try the lamb chop entree next time if I like the riblets, which I likely will!
The menu was filled out with a few salads, avgolemono (chicken and lemon soup), a couple of pizzas to make use of the old pizza oven, and entrees ranging from $17-$22. A side of fries with oregano and feta flew by the table and looked delicious as well.
We arrived at the height of dinner service at around 7:30. The waitstaff was a bit overwhelmed, resulting in delays in taking our order, but once some of the large tables departed they were friendly, knowledgable and enthusiastic.
I'm happy with the latest addition to the neighborhood and look forward to trying the rest of the menu!