Skara Grill

Satisfying a Grecian yearning
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  February 3, 2010
2.0 2.0 Stars

Our only weak appetizer was gyro meze ($6.95), a rotisserie specialty, here done in alternating layers of lamb and pork. It's pretty, but the idea is to continually slice off the caramelized crust, eventually creating an entire meal of only trimmings or "burnt ends." Our appetizer sample had no such crust — and that ain't gyro (pronounced "yeer-o"). There were, however, fresh grilled pita triangles, diced tomato, diced onion, and yogurt cheese — all the trimmings of a great gyro roll-up. Maybe it's better roasted at another time of day.

The best of our entrées were the grilled meats, as one might expect, especially the succulent and only lightly marinated lamb kebabs ($16.95). This was 10 good chunks of lamb tenderloin with grilled onions and peppers. I also like the special on pork ribs. There was a wisp of barbecue sauce, but basically we were eating meaty ribs grilled to a turn with just enough char marks.

Dinner plates come with a small Greek salad, featuring a Kalamata olive, cuke, green bell pepper, onion, and a couple wedges of winter tomato, but no feta cheese. You also get a choice of two side dishes, of which the overcooked green beans in tomato sauce was superb, the roast potato halves very good, and the rice pilaf blah. For another $4.95, you can purchase a side dish of giant butter beans in tomato sauce (again, not much sauce) that will add healthy winter carbs for a table of four.

Casseroles were less successful. The moussaka ($12.95) was giant, but the amount of ground meat couldn't keep up with the béchamel sauce, eggplant, thin slices of potato, or thicker slices of zucchini. Youvetsi ($14.95), one of the great Balkan rice casseroles, is here done with orzo pasta and chunks of stewed lamb in a handsome metal casserole. Give me rice and an assortment of vegetables, I think.

The wine, almost half of which is made up of Greek bottles, is quite good. Since prices here are moderate, we splurged on one of the most expensive reds, a 2006 Amethystos ($42), from the Costa Lazaridis winery in Drama. There actually is a city called Drama in Greek Macedonia, and this wine may well be a Drama queen. At 14.5 percent alcohol, it was a larger than life, meaty meritage blend of cabernet (obvious in an intense, vegetative nose), merlot, and the ancient limnio grape (which also makes powerhouse reds). This wine didn't just stand up to grilled lamb; it knocked it down and kicked it all over the ring.

The dessert menu was probably designed for mixed marriages. On the traditional Greek side, the baklava ($3.95) was huge if perhaps overly reliant on the phyllo dough at the expense of nuts and butter. But the galaktoboureko ($4.95) seemed to have the perfect balance of custard filling and phyllo pastry. On the new American side, the in-laws would not be disappointed with a solid (in every sense) chocolate-mousse cake ($4.95) — a best buy — and a caramel cheesecake ($4.95) that was surprisingly light and not too sweet.

The servers were excellent and offered good explanations, and even a pre-taste of the Amethystos from an open bottle.

Robert Nadeau can be reached

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