Every October, I can expect to have a full month of outings to celebrate my two very social Libra friends' birthdays. It's always a large group gathering. Libras and I are supposed to get along very well because both our signs are really social. I guess that's true.
For KT's birthday, we tried a new Mediterranean place downtown that took over the old E.O. Trading Co. location. Nemea Greek Taverna has spacious square footage on the corner of S. First Street and E. San Fernando. I never ate at E.O Trading because I was always put off by its large space and fancy image. I feel the same about Nemea but I'm older now and I guess this is where "mature" people should hang out.
The bar and hostess area on the left had comfortable leg room for all and was a great place to grab a few drinks. The dining are was sizable with plenty of room between each table. Large parties like ours were free to mingle in their own groups without noticing other diners. We split appetizers around the table and everyone ordered their own entrees. I will be showing all appetizers and the few entrees I could photograph.
($7.50) Dolmathes - grape leaves stuffed with rice and mint, served with dill and tomatoes. Good per the usual. Not a stand out star but a staple of Mediterranean appetizers.
Ladies, he'll light your hearts on fire like he did to this cheese.
($12) Saganaki - pan fried Kefalograviera Cheese and Brandy, served flaming. Then a hot waiter puts out the flame with lemon juice. This dish not only entertains the eyes but also your taste buds. The cheese is melty and savory. Yes, it tastes more salty than cheesy but it was great and of course, piping hot!
($11.50) Plevrakis lamb riblets - mesquite grilled with lemon oregano emulsion
These were very good but small. Hence, the name riblets. Great appetizers to nibble on.
($16) Octopoda salata - braised octopus on frisse with peppers and red wine vinaigrette
This was my friend's dish. It came highly recommended on Yelp and by word of mouth. My friends seemed to like it also.
($30) Ktenia - Pan fried day boat scallops, wild mushroom risotto
Who doesn't love a good buttery risotto with wild mushrooms. That's the best ingredient to put in risotto. Actually, the best ingredient to pair with risotto are scallops. These large seared on the outside, juicy and sweet on the inside, scallops to be specific. Can't go wrong with a Parmesan crisp to top it off.
($32) Lavraki - whole mediterranean bass, mesquite grilled with braised greens and roasted potatoes, lemon vinaigrette on the side. This was also my friend's dish. No one expected a whole fish but I think she finished it. Happy Birthday to her!
($19.50) Mousaka - tastes like a casserole of ground lamb, with eggplant, potato, and bechamel. After eating this, I realize I've had it before in a lasagna-like shape and not a casserole type of serving. I didn't like it then and I didn't like it this time either. It is just a whole lot of heavy food. Not my type of dish. I could handle a bite or so and that's it.
The service was good and the ambiance was just right for a large birthday party not looking to get drunk but just to enjoy good food and conversation. The flaming cheese was entertaining and made my night. I just need to make sure that same good looking waiter serves it each time. Most of the food and the wines we ordered were satisfying. The portions were big enough. BUT, I save the biggest critique for last. It was pricey. Very very pricey. I don't need to tell you, the prices I listed above speak for themselves. The appetizers cost what an entree would cost anywhere else.
Would I go back here? Yes but only for a group celebration like this. This is not regular every day or even date night prices. Too rich for my blood.