Quantcast
Latest Stories

Menu

Fig ‘roka’ salad, ‘arni lemonato,’ ‘paidakia,’ baklava–one more Greek resto on the block

By

You must not fall into the tourist trap of Greek food, Greece’s restaurant critic Albert Arouh has advised. He calls moussaka, Greek salad and souvlaki “cliché” dishes for tourists. He also warns that hummus isn’t even Greek; ubiquitous tourist traps serve it as the quintessential Greek food only because Cypriots often run Greek restaurants abroad where they serve this Middle Eastern delicacy.

And yet when The Greek Gaydess, a Greco-American friend, visited Cyma three years ago, he loved the food, cliché though they may be.

“I can cook better,” he joked. “But it’s good!”

It’s the same sentiment expressed by many Cyma fans, who have followed its growth from a Boracay favorite to a recipient of Best Restaurant awards.

If imitation is the best form of flattery, then Robbie Goco, chef and creator of Cyma, must say thank you for the compliment that is Greeka Kouzina, a restaurant reminiscent of most things Cyma. Another friend whispered that Goco was upset that his menu was copied. But this is grapevine tittle-tattle and unconfirmed—either by Cyma or Kouzina.

Anyway, Goco need not be bothered because if indeed he was copied, it only proves he has blazed a trail. He may take inspiration from the Starbucks Siren, who remains the queen of quick espresso (and the Christmas planner) in spite of Figaro and Bo.

Full operation

But Greeka Kouzina may keep the Cyma group on its toes now that it is on full operation. Clearly, it has been gaining an acceptable reputation through word of mouth, as the wait for a table may take as long as half an hour on a Sunday. And it doesn’t accept reservations on weekends.

At first glance, it is difficult to see why. The restaurant is out of the way, on P. Guevarra Street in San Juan, not even on J. Abad Santos (Little Baguio) where the quaint but popular restaurants are. And while the giant sign outside its doors helps, once you step in, you may be greeted by Greek chaos: a confused waiter, a guest screaming directions to the restaurant on the phone, hungry patrons sitting on the stairs waiting for a table, and a lady in shorts barking directions to the servers as to where to seat people.

Yet like a Mark Webb movie, chaos is juxtaposed against calm. There is utter disparity between those who are standing and those who are seated and have been served their food. It is as if the food on the table creates a bubble that confines seated guests to their space, suddenly oblivious to the rest of the restaurant.

That is, in fact, the magic of Greeka Kouzina’s food—enticing to the eye, alive in the mouth and effortless to digest, such that you are inclined to forget the chaotic world around you.

The fig roka salad, which astounds you with its size (good for four to six), becomes more impressive with its orchestra of flavors and textures: sweetness from chewy figs; saltiness from chalky Parmesan cheese; bitterness from crisp arugula and walnuts. As if all that wasn’t enough, sun-dried tomatoes are thrown in, too.

The watercress salad with blue cheese, though less snappy, is also laudable and proves with its pears that the restaurant does not scrimp on ingredients.

The hummus, origins notwithstanding, is an ode to the chickpea, not so giddily mashed as to become flavored Gerber the way other restaurants serve it. The lamb chop burger is juicy and well-executed.

Highly recommended

The resto is proudest of its Arni Lemonato or roasted lamb, highly recommended by the servers, and rightly so. Roasted for five hours, it lives up to its menu-proclaimed description of meat that “falls off the bone.” It also maintains the gaminess lamb-lovers seek, while being gently refined by rosemary.

The lamb ribs, aka Paidakia, is also a delight. Be ready to nibble.

While the lamb appears to be the specialty, the beef is also very impressive. The beef souvlaki is even more tender than the Krasates (pork chops).

But other items are less stellar. As with the pork, the salmon is just okay. The Spanakorizo, Greece’s rice version of spinach risotto, is also just okay, especially on a Monday when it is less fresh than over the weekend. The stuffed zucchini and moussaka, like the gravy, bring back great memories—of your high-school cafeteria.

However, you will end on a high note with the baklava—that is, if you can appreciate the generous scoop of authentic yogurt atop it. (Be ready to explain to those not accustomed around you that the yogurt is not panis but sour, as it should be.)

Note also that this is not the drier baklava more predominantly seen in Mediterranean restaurants here. At Kouzina, it is thicker, more chewy and with softer filo. So the yogurt may be sour but it will be a sweet ending.

Slow service

Be ready for slow service, mains delivered before the salad, and a frazzled waitress. But let it go. It’s a kitchen, as its name says, not a stage. It is Greek, not French. It is hot (literally, if you sit beside a window), not haute.

Plus, cliché as the menu may be to Grecian purists, the food served will succeed in making visitors appreciate the restaurant’s concept of Greek food. And in the end, that’s what matters.

Greeka Kouzina is at 285 P. Guevarra St., Little Baguio, San Juan; tel. 02-6245974. Open daily for lunch, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; and dinner, 5:30-10 p.m. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible for the ground floor. Limited parking.

Reservations accepted Mondays-Thursdays. First come, first served, Fridays-Sundays.

Visit margauxlicious.com; Facebook.com/margauxlicious. Follow twitter.com/margauxsalcedo.


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Albert Arouh , Cyma , Food , Greek Food , Greek restaurants , Greek salad , Greeka Kouzina , moussaka , souvlakia



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. This is not just a farm
  5. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  6. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  7. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  8. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  9. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  10. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  7. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  8. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?

News

  • 12 dead, 96 injured in Holy Week accidents–NDRRMC
  • Filipino devotees re-enact crucifixion of Christ
  • Rouhani talks peace, outreach at army parade
  • Rains, thunderstorms on Good Friday
  • Carbon monoxide leak suffocates 20 in Catbalogan City
  • Sports

  • Ryu pitches Dodgers past Giants
  • Alonso sets the pace in Chinese GP practice
  • Heat seek Three-peat but Spurs, Pacers top seeds
  • Can Spurs get back at Heat? Can they survive West?
  • Hopkins, 49, seeks win for the ageless
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Cannes film festival launches race for 2014 Palme d’Or
  • Business

  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • Technology

  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • WHO warns vs spread of MERS-Cov, urges vigilance in taking precautions
  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks
  • A ‘time-travel’ production of ‘Les Miserable’ at Stanford
  • Filipina Maryknoll sister honored for years of service
    Marketplace