Heritage hangout

Rediscovering Greek history
By BRIAN DUFF  |  September 20, 2006

NEW PLACE: with old tradition
Modern times are tough for the Greeks. About no other place on Earth are people quite so sure that its best days are 2500 years behind it. Adding insult to injury, the ancient culture from whose shadow modern Greeks cannot escape was alternatively cruel (see Thucydides), obscure (Heraclites), annoying and self righteous (Plato/Socrates), misogynist (all of them), fixated on the profundity of incest (Sophocles), and generally took direction from teenage girls who huffed gas (Oracles of Delphi). It’s depressing.

I feared a similar fate for Greek Corner on upper Exchange Street. It takes over the space left behind by Bandol, which like the ancients was both wonderful and problematic in fascinating ways. But you know, I have heard that Greece, while hardly as interesting as it used to be, is pretty darn nice even today. And after a few visits I now feel the same way about Greek Corner. It’s more straightforward than what it replaces (though the mostly Russian waitstaff throws you for a momentary loop), but it’s pretty good.

It would be better if Greek Corner were really on a corner. Another wall of windows would help the décor. The white table clothes and white walls, with just a few photos of the homeland to liven them up, are not doing much to obscure that the space is a long, narrow box with a drop ceiling and a Pepsi machine looming in the back. The place looks much better when it’s bustling, which it seems to be on weekends.

The menu manages to be extensive while sticking to classic Greek cooking. It even offers a few Greek-style pastas, which you rarely see. There were a number of seafood options, but we did not get around to trying them. We found it a little worrisome that they could be out of the “fresh” broiled scallops and not out of the “fresh” sautéed scallops. Maybe it’s a marination issue.

The pikilia, an affordable combination that comes on a huge plate piled with food, allows you to try almost all the appetizers. The dips — one of potato, one eggplant, one yogurt, one mostly feta, were creamy and quite good. The taramolalsata, a dip with red caviar, potato, and oil that can be wonderful, tasted just a little off. The spanikopita, very crispy with a salty and slightly bitter filling, was nice. There was also a sort of tabbouleh with lots of parsley, which was balanced by a generous splash of lemon. The vegetarian dolmades were just fine, but not as good as the version including ground meat that we ordered separately, which came in an unusual lemony and slightly gooey egg sauce. A country-style sausage, scored, grilled, and served on a pool of another lemon sauce, tasted just like a backyard barbecue, right down to being left over the charcoal just a bit too long.

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