Tag Archives: greek

Gyros at The Greek Spot

7 Jun

Marking the one year anniversary of our honeymoon to the Greek Isles, we felt that there was no better way to commemorate our adventures in Greece than with dinner at the beloved Greek Spot.

We have been to the Greek Spot in the past as it’s an ideal place to grab some dinner before a show at the nearby 9:30 Club. We were seeing Titus Andronicus and Okkervil River that evening, so Rachel and I were looking for something fast and casual so we wouldn’t miss any of the acts.


Without hesitation, I (of course) ordered the traditional gyro. The lamb was tender, flavorful, and nicely seasoned while the pita was warm and soft. It’s arguably one of the better gyros you’ll find in this city, and for under seven bucks, it’s a great value. The tzatziki is downright delicious, but once it blends with the generous portions of lamb stuffed inside the pita, it’s as if you’re walking down the streets of Athens.

I do have to admit that Marathon Deli (in College Park) might have the best gyro in regards to the entire metropolitan area, but Greek Spot comes in at a close second. How we haven’t posted about Marathon yet is beyond me, but rest assured, they’ll make it on here soon enough.

Rachel went with the vegetarian gyro platter as she had read good things about it on Yelp. She likes trying some non-meat options every once in a while and the soy steak strips sounded appealing.

Vegetarian gyro platter

The platter is a great deal since it comes with four triangles of pita, tzatziki sauce, a small salad, and lots of meat (err, fake meat) on a bed of orzo. It was a ton of food for $9.50, and an even better deal for me since I helped Rachel eat half the platter. It’s a nice way to build your own sandwich if you want the additional sides while not having to deal with a sometimes messy sandwich.

She enjoyed the soy strips and even I was surprised how well they went with the platter, but next time will probably stick to chicken souvlaki or a traditional gyro.

Between the two of us, we had a hearty, satisfying dinner for around $20, including two Boylan sodas. Among the quality of the food, the price, and the gorgeous weather outside, you could not ask for a better pre-show meal.

Greek Spot on Urbanspoon

A Surprise Dinner at Komi

12 May

With my 30th birthday coming up, I knew Rachel had something up her sleeve. I just didn’t know when, and importantly, where we would go.

We started this tradition of surprising each other back in ’09 when we got engaged with a dinner at CityZen which was unbeknownst to Rachel until we literally arrived at the Mandarin Oriental. From there, we took turns at who could one-up the other with surprise meals at Volt’s Table 21, Restaurant Eve, and Sushi Taro.

This time, however, I had let my guard down.

Considering that my birthday is May 19, I had no idea that Rachel’s plan would be executed a little more than two weeks prior to my 30th. As it turns out, she secretly collaborated with our friend Casey as her husband Keith also recently turned 30 in order to surprise us both.

Essentially, everyone was in on the plans except the husbands.

Birthday Greeting from Komi

Coincidentally, I had asked Rachel what I should wear Friday morning since she had mentioned about going to Hank’s Oyster Bar for happy hour later that evening. Considering that I typically dress down on casual Fridays, it fortunately turned out that my wardrobe choice was optimal for where we were eventually going to go for dinner.

Once we had met up with our friends at the Dupont Circle Metro, we made our way towards Hank’s. And then we passed it. Confused, and with the girls staying silent, I thought that maybe we were going to Agora instead. Once again, everyone continued walking until we reached the steps of Komi. And then we stopped.

Needless to say, I was completely taken aback. And then really, really excited.

Rachel and Casey just pulled one of the greatest coups by not only securing a reservation for four at one of the best restaurants in all of DC, but by keeping it a secret for well over a month! My wife and friends are so awesome.

Now that I’m already 300+ words deep without going into the food, I suppose I should talk about our absolutely wonderful meal…

Komi isn’t like most restaurants. They don’t even have a menu. Diners simply take a seat and are taken on a whimsical journey of some of the best food you’ll ever have in the District.

Considering that Komi disallows its patrons from taking pictures of its food, I apologize in advance for the lack of images as some of the plates they served were visually stunning. I also want to apologize if I don’t go into full detail about each of our many courses as there was simply too much to remember and, well, I didn’t write everything down.


Chef Johnny Monis and Co. - Image courtesy of www.komirestaurant.com


Anyway, our meal started off with several amuse-bouches, or small bites.

The first was a brioche bun with Greek yogurt, sea beans, and salmon roe. With one bite, I could tell that this was going to be an exceptional evening. It was only going to get better from here.

There were two other crudo dishes that followed, but I honestly can’t remember all of the details. I do recall that they paired one of the crudo with the freshest beets we have ever tried.

The scallop two ways was up next – one served in a shell, and one on a spoon. I preferred the one on the spoon over the shell in terms of taste, but they were both great.

The next course featured burrata cheese with asparagus. It’s hard to explain this dish given the complexity of the flavors, but somehow, it just worked. Chef Johnny Monis is obviously a master of his craft.

After that we were served salmon with crème fraiche and a toasted chip. Now we’re talking! It was like a deconstructed version of bagels and lox. An abundance of flavor found in such a small package.

The small, savory plate of smoked foie gras (served chilled) was terrific. Served with black trumpet mushrooms, pea shoots, and strawberries, it wasn’t a generous portion by any stretch, but it literally melted in your mouth. The foie gras that was atop the tuna at the Inn at Little Washington, however, holds a dear place in my heart.

Their take on Spanikopita was so creative – the ingredients were liquidly infused inside a crispy ball while rightfully acknowledging the original Greek dish.

The portions began to increase at this point. Up first was one of Komi’s legendary dishes – their take on a DC staple: the half-smoke. I have long heard about how Chef Monis’ recipe is an ode to the District, but let me tell you, this one knocked it out of the park. Using sausage, grounded in-house no less, tucked inside a housemade toasted bun, and then topped with tomato marmalade, the half-smoke was exceptional. But wait, along with a homemade pork rind seasoned with Old Bay, Komi paired the dish with a Lagunitas IPA! Just brilliant all around. It was at this point that we spotted the chef himself serving dishes in the dining room. Let’s just say, Rachel was swooning about as much as she did over Mr. Voltaggio at Volt.

The roasted dates stuffed with mascarpone cheese. Wow, just wow. Unanimously one of our favorite plates of the night. The sweet and salty combination was flawlessly executed with this dish. I could have eaten a table’s worth myself.

The egg yolk ravioli with shaved tuna kicked off the pasta course. My word was this delicious. While watching others cut theirs in half where the egg yolk drained out of the pasta, I instead ate the entire piece of ravioli whole. Granted I wanted to ration it, but this way I was able to enjoy every last drop of yolk stuffed inside.

Our waiter then served us tagliatelle with seafood ragu and fried caper berries. The pasta, prepared in-house of course, was fine and delicate while the cod added some nice flavor to the dish. It might have been lost in the shuffle coming off the high that was the half-smoke and ravioli, but the excellent pasta, as well as the ragu, stole the show.

Then, it was time for our main course. The table received two massive plates of meat: one was Katsikki, or roasted goat shoulder, while the other was suckling pig. It also came with four pieces of wonderfully prepared warm pita bread that were so fluffy that they nearly resembled the texture of pancakes. Additionally, we received two plates of “condiments” which included the best tzatziki we have ever tasted (and we’ve been to Greece!), picked radishes, olive horseradish spread, roasted red peppers, and lemon salt.

The four of us then concocted our own gyros using some of the finest quality ingredients courtesy of Komi and their kitchen. Based on Keith and Casey’s recommendation (they had been to Komi before), they suggested that I try the suckling pig skin first. Crispy, salty, and savory is all I can say. Meanwhile the actual meats, both pig and goat, were incredibly tender and so full of flavor that I almost felt bad adding any toppings. All four of us were in heaven while going to town on the two plates. They even provided an additional set of pita and condiments so we wouldn’t have to waste the small amount of goat that was still on the serving dish.

With the entrée being a hard act to follow, the cheese course featured a miniature biscuit stuffed with housemade Mizithra cheese. The cheese was light and mild and was a nice way to bring us down from the highs that we incurred from the previous course.

After the cheese course, our waiter presented a cardboard box (adorned with me and Keith’s names) which contained, as our waiter described, a homemade take on ROLOS. If only the real ROLOS tasted this good. I popped one of these cardamom-scented treats in my mouth and the caramel contained inside was of a caliber you typically do not find in Hershey assortments. On top of that, the chocolate used made Komi’s version all the more memorable.

What followed next was a dish composed of olive oil gelato, balsamic-glazed strawberries, and a lemon shortbread cookie that each couple shared. So refreshing and refined.

The next dessert, which was our favorite of the night, was the chocolate square infused with peanut butter, caramel, and sea salt. Holy moly, words alone cannot do this dessert justice. It was just that good. The crunchy, salty texture of the square was one of the best flavor combinations for a dessert I have ever come across. Simply heavenly. This alone would have been amazing, but accompanying the sinful dessert on the same plate was caramelized banana with coconut sorbet. While also delightful, it just didn’t compare to the chocolate/peanut butter/caramel/salty goodness.

Our final course, which was more of a take-home treat, was their elderberry lollipops – one for each of us.

We skipped on the wine pairings and instead got a bottle of white, red, and dessert wines throughout the evening. Komi even had Grande Reserve Naoussa by Boutari, a winery we visited while in Santorini during our honeymoon last year.

It goes without saying, but we have to mention how amazing the service was throughout the meal. The way Komi works is that there is no set waiter, but instead we were graced with several different staff members tending to us throughout the night. We seemed to have a main server who started off the evening, as well as a sommelier, but at one point we looked like we wanted another bottle of wine and within a minute someone else was on hand to take our order.

Our waters were refilled as soon as they were half empty, and a fresh napkin was brought out or refolded within seconds of someone leaving to go to the restroom. There was definitely a laid-back vibe and we thoroughly enjoyed hearing some of our favorite artists in the background during our meal.

Without a doubt, this was the best meal we have ever had in DC proper. After years of hearing about Komi being the top restaurant in the District, we finally have justification to backup that very same claim.

I am fortunate to not only have dinner at one of the most celebrated restaurants in all of Washington, but to also spend my 30th amongst my wonderful wife and close friends who conspired behind this great surprise. I cannot express my gratitude enough. Rachel’s birthday will be quite the challenge come November.

Komi on Urbanspoon

Cava: Here, There, and Everywhere

12 Nov

Cava Grill Storefront in BethesdaWe have always heard great things about Cava Mezze restaurant, and it took us way too long to finally dine at their Gaithersburg location this past summer. After going once, we were immediately hooked, and only wished their restaurants were a little closer to us. Well, it may not be the full restaurant, but Cava Grill, an offshoot casual eatery, will be opening up on Bethesda Avenue come this December.

The difference between Cava Mezze and Cava Grill is that, instead of a full restaurant with table service and various Greek small plates, the Grill will be more of a fast-casual place. Diners can choose in an assembly line fashion what they want on their pita and souvlaki sandwiches, similar to a Chipotle model. We, for one, are very excited about this, especially since it will be another nice, inexpensive lunch option in the area.

Cava HarissaYou also don’t need to visit the Cava restaurants in order to enjoy their delicious and unique dips. It is somewhat well known that Cava is now selling their dips at area Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Markets. They offer selections of traditional hummus, spicy hummus, eggplant and red pepper dip, and spicy harissa.

As we mentioned already, we’re big fans of the Bethesda Central Farm Market, and this past weekend we were fortunate enough to stop by on a day where Cava had a table out. Some of the other vendors said how excited they were since about this as it was the first time Cava had been back since last year.

Cava HarissaWe were able to sample the different dips and, after some debate, decided to bring home some harissa. What makes this dip different is the combination of stewed tomatoes with the red pepper flakes, olive oil and other spices. Before you know it a wave of spice hits your mouth after the first bite. The flavor combination is great, but we’re warning you now not to eat too much of it at a time, unless you can handle the heat of course. Next time, I say we get the roasted garlic hummus and skip the spice.

Cava Mezze also has plans to open a Clarendon location in the next few months, and is also scouting more Cava Grill locations in DC.

Taste of Bethesda 2010: Rachel's Take

5 Oct

There are certain things you can always count on as soon as the leaves start to change colors. Some people get excited about football, others picking apples and pumpkins. I love all those things too, but the one sure thing that always falls on the first weekend in October is Taste of Bethesda. The organizers have been incredibly lucky with great weather the last few years, and this year was no exception.

You have to know what you’re getting into when you head towards the Woodmont Triangle area. If you have an aversion to large crowds, dogs, strollers, music, and narrow spaces, this event isn’t for you. If you can ignore all that and just focus on the fun atmosphere and a chance to have great food with friends, then it is a really great event.

You have to tackle the Taste with a strategy and you can’t just give your tickets to the first booth you see. We grabbed a map and walked up and down each street. Brett got a slider at Fresh Grill since we’ve wanted to try that place for awhile. I had a bite and agreed with him that we will definitely have to check out the place in the near future. We stopped in front of the restaurant to eat away from the crowds and noticed a sign that said Happy Hour from 4pm to 7pm, another sign for a winner in our book.

Nuetella crepe from Original Pancake HouseMoving along, I noticed the Original Pancake House was serving their signature crepes, either with lemon or Nutella fillings. I always love the idea of ordering crepes when we eat brunch there, but a whole plate of them is too many for me, so getting one crepe for three tickets seemed like a great compromise. The crepe was light and fluffy right off the outdoor grill, with the warm Nutella oozing out. I guess technically that means I started off with dessert, but I suppose there is nothing wrong with that, right?

Next, we got the bigger parts of our feast, with Brett having BBQ at Nest and I opting for the grilled lamb chops at The Oz. One of the great things about Taste of Bethesda is that it provides exposure to restaurants that people may not be aware of. Brett and I have been to The Oz several times and feel it is definitely underrated. After this weekend, I think that might have changed for anyone who waited in their line.

The Oz's lamb chops

I was debating between the lamb chops and the BBQ duck salad, which looked great as well. But I will definitely say that the lamb chops may have been the best deal of the day. For four tickets, you got a full plate of four chops, grilled to perfection on the spot with spices and herbs sprinkled on top. It was certainly heavy and pretty much did me in for the rest of the afternoon, but it was worth it.

After that I wasn’t sure what else to get, so when Brett wanted to share a falafel at our new favorite Greek spot, Yamas Grill, I happily gave him my ticket. I only had a few bites but the falafel seemed really moist and I would definitely get a full order of it when we go there next.

Cannoli from OlazzoFinally, I had to get our go-to pastry at this annual event, the cannoli at Olazzo. For two tickets, it is hands down one of the best desserts, and yet another reason to visit this reliable Italian restaurant. Then of course we had to go back to The Oz and wait in line while a friend got the lamb chops I recommended, and over an hour later the line was even longer than before, but amazingly they hadn’t sold out of them yet!

There are of course several Taste festivals this fall, with one in Georgetown this coming Saturday. Unfortunately we can’t make it, but I think this weekend’s event left us perfectly content. Until next year…

Taste of Bethesda 2010: Brett's Take

4 Oct

You could not have asked for a better day for this year’s Taste of Bethesda. The weather was perfect, there were new restaurants to explore, and most importantly, we didn’t have to worry about parking.

Fresh Grill: Our first stop was Bethesda’s latest burger entrant, Fresh Grill.They have received some praise over on Yelp since their recent opening, so I decided to check out what they had to offer. I usually shy away from using tickets on samples of a slider, but I have to admit, I walked away impressed.

Fresh Grill slider

The bun was fresh, the bacon was thick, and the beef was juicy. Now I want to know what an entire cheeseburger tastes like from this place. Good stuff (and no, I’m not referring to Spike’s).

Bistro Provence: This was supposed to be our next stop as I was very much anticipating Yannick Cam’s French cuisine, but much to our dismay, the bistro’s kiosk was nowhere to be found! Quite a disappointment as they were originally advertised to be a part of Taste of Bethesda. They were even listed on the map handouts!

Nest Café: Nest has proven time and time again that they are one of the most underrated venues in Bethesda. Not only were they offering an array of higher-end options at their booth, but they had separate lines dedicated to each of the entrees they were serving up.

Nest preparing musselsNest preparing BBQ brisket Nest and their BBQ brisket

The left line featured mussels which were being freshly prepared in what looked like a delicious broth.  I opted for the line on the right, which was not a sample mind you, but an entire serving of their “Drive by BBQ”.

Customers had their choice of meat (brisket, chicken, pulled pork) as well as sauce (I went with the brisket and Texas molasses-blend sauce), and let me tell you, it basically represented my lunch for the day and rendered all other tickets nearly useless.Nest's BBQ Brisket Sandwich

For the cost of four tickets, which is essentially five dollars, customers received an overstuffed sandwich full of brisket, drenched in sauce, all atop a hearty bun. I had to sit down at a nearby table to consume all of it, but once again, Nest delivered.

In comparison, the same sandwich would cost you $13.95 at a table inside Nest, excluding the accompanying fries and coleslaw. Basically, it’s downright refreshing to see restaurants such as Nest actually take the time to offer a full portion of their menu’s offerings during Taste of Bethesda for such an unbelievable value.

Morton’s of Bethesda: For one careless reason or another, I decided to waste two tickets on their petit filet mignon sandwich.  Between the meat being well done (if you could even find it), and the oversized potato roll, this was a poor decision and even worse sample. For such a high-class establishment, I would have expected better from them.

Yamas: The newly-opened Greek restaurant was offering samples of gyros and falafel, so I went with the latter since I had already had my fair share of meat for the day.

The chick peas were fresh, crispy, and overall had good flavor. Not as tasty as Amsterdam Falafel, but I liked it. The size of the portion was fairy generous as well. My only pet peeve was the use of whole wheat pita. It just did not taste nearly as good as regular pita bread. The texture, dryness, and overall bland flavor just takes the entire dish down a notch.

Olazzo: I decided to use the last of our tickets at a neighborhood staple, Olazzo. I went with the Penne Rose with meatball for a cost of three tickets. Unsurprisingly, the dish was excellent. The rose sauce was thick and creamy while you could taste all the wonderful spices the house-made meatball was prepared with. The two together made for a great combination.

Penne Rose from Olazzo

Overall, I’d say the entire day was a success. While there was only one misstep (Morton’s), the rest of the venues I tried were solid choices. Now if only people wouldn’t take their enormously-sized dogs that could carry small children on top of, I’d be a happy man.

Yamas Reintroduces Bethesda to Greek Cuisine

21 Sep

When we were living in our former apartment on Woodmont Avenue in “Old Bethesda”, there was a cute Italian place called Frascati that we loved, and more importantly, was one of the few places Brett’s grandparents actually liked. It was a Bethesda staple that remained in business for nearly three decades.

So, of course, it closed just a few months later after we first discovered it.

The space remained vacant for several years and left us wondering if anything was eventually going to replace it.

Flash forward to last month and we couldn’t help but notice a sign in the storefront announcing the opening of Yamas, a new Greek restaurant in Bethesda.

With the departure of both Levante’s and Athenian Plaka, this was a welcome addition among a sea of Lebanese and other Mediterranean establishments such as Bacchus of Lebanon, Lebanese Taverna, Moby Dick House of Kabab, and the new Bistro Lazzez.

Cava Grill has already announced the construction of their new casual space on Bethesda Avenue, but for now, it seems that Yamas has a jump on the action in Greek fare in the area.

The atmosphere at Yamas is fairly casual, with a menu on the wall by the ordering area, but there is also a seating space with waitstaff in addition to a bar area.

Happy Hour specials include a “Mezze ‘Opa’ Ωra” of $5 Mezze dishes, house red and white wine in a half kilo or kilo for $5 or $10, respectively, bottled Greek beer for $4, and drafts for $2.99. There is also a Yamas dirty martini that features Ketel One with olives stuffed with feta cheese.

One mezze dish that was particularly good was the zucchini fritters.  In fact, we were very excited about ordering this appetizer given that we recently went to the Greek Islands for our honeymoon.

Just to give a backstory: when we would drink champagne or other cocktails while in Greece, instead of toasting with “cheers”, it was tradition to instead shout “Yamas!”. One of our favorite dishes in Greece was the zucchini fritters (otherwise dubbed zucchini balls at most Greek tavernas) and was served with a tzatziki sauce.

Let’s just say that the dish we had at Yamas was the only one that compared to what we had in Greece, and trust us, we have tried several Greek restaurants since returning to the States.

zucchini fritters

The famous zucchini fritters

There is much variety found on the menu, listing typical Greek items such as marinated octopus, spanakopita, falafel, chicken souvlaki, and of course, gyros.

The restaurant also features items such as the Yamas lamb burger and a rotisserie chicken with fresh and unique sides to choose from. These sides range from “opa fries” (which consist of olive oil and feta cheese) as well as a house salad, roasted vegetables, green beans, and roasted vegetable orzo.

The second time we dined at Yamas, I went with two of my girlfriends while Brett was off working and eating his way through Kansas City.

We started off with some wine and, not shockingly, the zucchini fritters. The wine glasses were somewhat small, but they had a nice variety of Greek selections. My friends also agreed that the fritters were excellent.

The waiter was very attentive and came over several times to ask if we needed anything. This time around my friends ordered the house salad with falafel, the chicken souvlaki on whole wheat pita, and I got a quarter chicken with roasted vegetables.

Rotisserie chicken with roasted vegetables

Rotisserie chicken with roasted vegetables

Chicken souvlaki and house salad with falafel

Chicken souvlaki and house salad with falafel

The chicken was incredibly flavorful with a mixture of lemon, oregano, olive oil, and other spices. The vegetables consisted of tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, and red peppers and were a perfect compliment to the chicken.

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal and will definitely go back soon. The waiter even discounted some of the wines off of our bill which was a very nice surprise.

You can see that Yamas is trying hard to earn customer loyalty and we have definitely been won over. You can view their full menu here, and be sure to sample some of their Greek cuisine at Taste of Bethesda on October 2nd.

Yamas Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon