Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Big Fat Greek-Mexican Birthday

I promised a post this week and I'm going to deliver.  Sorry I don't have a recipe.  I'm still not feeling very creative.  This is going to be a restaurant post.  There is nothing like spreading the love when you have a good meal at a restaurant.  It's also good to warn the masses if a restaurant is bad.

So this week was my birthday.  I love celebrating the anniversary of my 29th birthday.  It's my 13th anniversary this year.  The late Douglas Adams would be so pleased.

So we started off the celebrations a day early.  Remember how I promised I would review a never-dined-at restaurant in my neighborhood?  Well, Sunday night we had dinner at the Greek Taverna, Nemea, which has been around for a year and I tried for the first time for the first family birthday dinner.

What might you expect a Greek restaurant to look like?  Maybe some whitewashed walls with paintings of blue water?  Perhaps some mosaic tile here and there?  When you go into Nemea, get rid of all of your preconceived notions about decor.  This place is distinctive even if it weren't Greek: exposed brick, massive chandeliers, and some very unusual paintings on the wall (sorry I didn't take any photos of those).

Greek wines were available by the glass.  The wine list was kind enough to point out what typical wines they compared to.  I had one called Santoriano, which was dry, with an almost perfumy quality to it.

Our server, Demetrios, brought a basket of warm pita and a dish of olives and warned us not to fill up on it.  There is no problem with me filling up on olives (laughs).  Once I looked at the menu I found way too many tempting appetizers.  It was hard to choose when you had all kinds of dips along with avgolemono, meatballs, sausages, fried zucchini, and green beans with tomatoes.  I went with a salad of arugula and grilled halloumi.  I have always wanted to try grilled halloumi since many of my favorite grecophile blogs talk so fondly of it.

 For my main course I stuck with a classic and went with souvlaki.  Meat was flavorful and rice was excellent.  It was well-flavored with spinach and lemon.

Kevin had grilled chicken with potatoes.  Mom had grilled shrimp.  Her boyfriend had salmon, but I didn't get a photo.

Then there was dessert.  I chose a phyllo-wrapped custard.  I think I was expecting something akin to a napoleon.  The custard here was much denser.  It was almost cake-like in texture.

All in all an excellent meal and I'm sorry we didn't try this place sooner.  I think we will remedy that in the future.  Nemea didn't transport me back to an open-air taverna on the Aegean, but it definitely gave me an idea of what dinner at Peter's house is like.

On to the next celebration.

Sunday night was for Mom.  Monday night was for Dad.  We stayed in the city and had dinner at Rosa Mexicano (the 1st Ave. location in case you were wondering).  Rosa Mexicano is not your typical taco-burrito-enchilada Mexican joint.  This isn't Chi Chi's.  This is some very sophisticated and distinctive food.  I've never had Mexican quite like it.

Dinner started in a very typical fashion despite the distinctiveness of the restaurant.  While I sipped a frozen pomegranate margarita, we enjoyed some tableside guacamole.

For the main course I was torn between the chorizo and steak skewers, the short ribs, and the lamb shank.  Dad had eaten there a few times before and had high praise for many dishes.  I ultimately went with the lamb shank.  They put on quite a show with it.  The shank was steamed in paper and the paper was opened right at the table.

This place is all about the show.  I think the lamb could have used a little less show and a little more spice in this instance.  I will say that the flavors were definitely different from what you expect in a typical lamb shank.  I just would have liked a bit more of those exotic chilis.  They did provide me with cilantro, onions, and a salsa verde to wrap in a tortilla with my lamb if I needed a bit more oomph.

The dessert!  Oh the desserts!  We thought we would split two among the four of us.  Then they staff brought me a cinnamon-laced chocolate mousse cake for my birthday.

On Dad's recommendation we had the churros with three dipping sauces (chocolate, caramel and raspberry).  They were so divinely crispy and well- oated in powdered sugar and cinnamon.

The other dessert we actually ordered was a banana chocolate chip cake soaked in cinnamon syrup, filled with peanut butter, and doused in chocolate sauce.  We were too stuffed to eat it by then, but I ate the banana ice cream on top before taking it home and having it as a birthday bonus the next night (and I shared with Kevin - I'm not heartless.)

In short it was a wonderful birthday and I am grateful to have such a wonderful family who spoils me so well!


Blond Duck said...

Greek and Mexican are two of my favorite cuisines. Sounds like the perfect birthday to me! Sending you virtual pie!

Sue said...

I'm so behind the times. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!

Those meals sound lovely. Did you see that recipe for guacamole on FOOD52 that was supposed to change the world. Basically you MASH all the ingredients together and then at the end just cut in the avocado, which should stay chunky. I don't know why, but it WAS awfully good when I tried it.

The Duo Dishes said...

Rosa Mexicano is here in LA too. The food is pretty good. Def not a Chi Chi's! Looks like you had a delicious birthday!