by Andrew Chalk
Ziziki’s, the popular area place for Greek food has just put three brand new ‘Chef’s Selections’ on its dinner menu – and they are really good. At a recent media event I got to sample them and co-owner (with her husband Costa) Mary Arabatzis even gave me a peek at their significant Greek wine selection.
First of the new triple was Grilled Bronzini ($29), a whole Mediterranean sea bass grilled with a pronounced helping of garlic and served topped with a sauce of chervil, chives and dill. On the side was a mound of slippery orzo ‘risotto’ with the pasta nodules bathed in just enough butter to render forth sweet, creamy flavors. Careful seasoning finished it all off . Chef Costa thoughtfully provides a slice of lemon to squeeze on the fish if you are that way inclined (I was) and there is definitely some of his Sicilian mother’s side speaking through this dish.
Next, the new dish that is likely to prove most popular (on account of its piece-of-everything diversity). The Greek Platter ($25/$20 at lunch) includes a triangle of that seminal Greek contribution to our cuisine, the spanakopita, topped with a fissiparous filo pastry and loaded full of creamy spinach. Also, there is a similarly proportioned block of pastichio (Greek lasagna) and lamb and chicken souvlaki, the latter draped in marinated onion rings, and an earthy chunk of feta cheese all accompanied by Ziziki’s pita bread. It is enough to serve two, and there is no shame in boxing up some as well. This is Greek cuisine at its knowing, comfort-food best.
Finally, Greek Cowboy ($34) is the dish for steak lovers. A tender grilled filet mignon dredged in Greek herbs and spices (mainly Greek oregano, nutmeg and pepper) accompanied by crimini mushrooms, hearty mashed potatoes (tossed with sauteed onions) all topped with asparagus spears seasoned with more of those Greek spices. The kitchen delivered the steak a perfect medium-rare.
Our enjoyment was enhanced considerably by Mary Arabatzis pointing me in the direction of the fifteen Greek wines on the list. The Bronzini paired well with the lively Apelia Dry Rosé ($9 glass/$34 bottle) made from the indigenous Roditis grape variety. This light, lively wine could be a ringer for a southern Rhône. With the Greek Platter, Mary’s recommendation of an example of the underappreciated Assyrtiko grape, from its home of Santorini, was spot on. The 2012 GWC Assyrtiko ($34) is a dry, high-acid white wine that can be considered an alternative to Sauvignon Blanc that brings similar citrus fruit flavors but also a heavier mouthfeel, desirable with cheesy and creamy dishes. Finally, the 2010 Oenodea blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and the 20% indigenous Agiorgitiko delivered a full-bodied red for the Greek Cowboy. Expect this wine to remind you of those Aussie Cabernet/Shiraz blends, but with a higher acid level and an additional fruit element to the nose and flavors that is contributed by the Agiorgitiko.
Beer lovers will likely want to try the Fix 1864 Greek beer. For cocktails, there are a range of Greek-inspired selections.
Fully satisfied, we had to decline dessert, although Ziziki’s has plenty to choose from. We did have a cup of the excellent Lavazza coffee.
Ziziki’s mothership is at Preston-Forest where it has been for a decade, but a satellite thrives in Uptown at Travis Walk. West Plano’s Lakeside market has a franchise which has some menu variation. One interesting factoid: many staff have been with the restaurant for years. For example, the chef de cuisine at Preston for over seven years and our polished waiter, Brent, for five. In the frenetic Dallas restaurant employment market I think that says something.
For interesting, well-prepared Greek Food in the Dallas area visit Ziziki’s. If you are a regular, return to try the new menu selections, you will be well-rewarded.