I am what a philosophy major would call an empiricist.
That is, I have to see it to believe it. Blind faith ain’t my strong point.
That said, if someone cooks a Greek meal for Barack Obama to celebrate Greek Easter…well,I’m inclined to think that she has some skills.
And since Maria Loi, celebrity chef, restaurateur, and Greek businessperson, has her only US outpost mere moments from my house, I thought I should go check it out.
Just to see for myself if she really has skills or if the president was cheated out of a great meal.
The interior of the Loi (which I forgot to photograph)is serene and elegant, done in sea foam fabric and dark woods. Candles dot the tables and make for a somewhat romantic feel. In the large bar area, there even a high communal table that is perfect for happy hour with a few friends.
There was also fresh pita and corn bread(corn bread? Really?), but these were the real winners on the table. The yogurt is so thick and creamy that it must be full fat. It’s velvety and just a little tangy, bolstered by a slick of fruity olive oil. The accompanying stuffed grape leaves are some of the best I have ever had. They are often mealy and bitter, but these are wonderfully moist and soft. They aren’t mushy though – just creamy, briny, and studded with fresh dill. They are served cold and are fabulous when dipped into the yogurt.
Meatballs by any other name do taste as sweet. These beef and lamb meat patties are so soft that they fall apart if you look at them cross eyed. They are spiced with cinnamon and served in a sweet, oregano-heavy tomato sauce with a dollop of airy feta mousse. It looks like meatballs and marinara, but it’s a world different – the cinnamon adds a sweet warmth that makes this dish undeniably Greek.
This is what my Greek mama used to make me every winter when I was feeling under the weather, with lemons from our own tree.
Well, that’s what the story would be if I wasn’t raised in Southern California by Ashkenazi Jews. The chicken is slowly braised so it is soft and juicy – the meat literally falls away from the bone. It doesn’t have crispy skin, but it has such a juicy, homey taste that you forgive that. The sauce is thick and very bright – one of my companions found it too lemony but I just loved it. It has to be that bright to compete with the creamy potatoes and sweet onions served in the sauce. This is a bowl-swiper – as in, you will want to use some pita to swipe up every last remnant of chicken and sauce.
Crispy phyllo dough, soaked with sweet honey. Crunchy nuts, studded with cinnamon and cloves. And in those layers between a fluffy, light cream that is rich and heady with vanilla. It’s like a napoleon-baklava mashup.
So yeah…it’s pretty great.
I came, I saw, I ate. The prices are definitely high – this is a special occasion place for sure – and the service is a bit friendly (our server VERY EMPHATICALLY suggested that we order dessert…and when we didn’t he ordered it for us), but that’s part of the fun.
This is a wonderful spot for a special occasion dinner, and I can’t wait to go back for the very well priced happy hour.
And I gotta say, I now have more faith in our country’s leader.
Because now I know for myself that he knows what great Greek food is.