LAMB DUNK: The succulent marinated lamb kebabs were among the best entrées, featuring 10 good chunks of lamb tenderloin with grilled onions and peppers.
Having longed for an all-out Greek dining room in metro Boston since, well, almost since the Phoenix was reviewing plays by Euripides and protesting the Peloponnesian War, I finally hit Dionysos in Cambridge about a year before it closed in 2007. So there I sat, like Sisyphus, at the bottom of the hill again, rubbing on some organic hand lotion, sizing up the rock for another push to the top. And I have to admit that I snuck out for some Turkish — uh, I mean Ionian, you know, Trojan — food. It was good, but it didn't really have that oomph of garlic, lemon, and rosemary. Ionian food is too darn subtle, is what it is.
|Skara Grill | 1985 Centre Street, West Roxbury | 617.327.1114 | Open daily, 11 am– 4 pm and 5–10 pm | AE, DI, MC, VI | Beer and wine | Free parking lot | Sidewalk-level access|
Now the same family that ran Dionysos has slapped some Doric columns on an old Friendly's ice-cream restaurant in West Roxbury, but has remade the interior into a handsome bar-restaurant with marble-look floors, yellow walls, some ragged orange and tin ceilings, Greek arena rock, the odd TV tuned to sports, and many scenic paintings.
While some of the food at Skara is pedestrian, the owners have addressed a certain lack of garlic noted at the upscale location of Dionysos. In fact, if your dish involves skordalia ($4.95/appetizer; $12.95/with the fried salt cod appetizer), the potato-garlic spread is strong enough to clean out entire shelves of young-adult vampire novels at any suburban Barnes & Noble.
Food starts with fresh, dense, crusty bread, plus a pour of olive oil with herbs and pepper that's rather bland. The bread cries out for sauce, but Skara (which means "grill") Grill is too busy grill-grilling to do as much with sauce as some other Greek kitchens. This may be an issue of regional style: the Skara owners are from Kalamata, in the south (Spartan territory back in Pericles's war), while most of our Greek cooking (think tomato-allspice sauce) comes from the old immigrant base in Greek Macedonia or parts of that other country to the east.
Skara does seem to have well tended fry machines next to the grills, as their version of saganaki ($6.95) is two excellent blocks of fried Kasseri cheese — not too heavy, not too light. Squeeze on a little lemon and you'll never order another tasteless mozzarella stick again. That fried salt cod appetizer is six fish fingers with only a hint of the funkiness of dried fish, easily overcome by the skordalia. On the Greek spread plate ($12.95), you don't get skordalia, but there is a properly garlicky rough-chopped eggplant salad ($4.95/à la carte); a refreshing tzatziki ($4.95) of yogurt, cucumbers, and you know what; an addictive spread of crumbled feta and hot peppers ($4.95); and a gentle, silken version of taramosalata ($4.95), where salty codfish roe takes the place of garlic in a whipped potato spread. The soup of our day was white bean ($3.95), which was a hearty bowl that tasted like commercial minestrone, except that it had bigger carrots and no pasta.