For diners of a certain ilk, a Greek meal would be utterly incomplete without an order of flaming saganaki cheese and the festive sound of smashing plates. But if you were to escape that kind of dinner theater and somehow find yourself amidst the crystalline waters of the Mediterranean, your meals would probably be built around the meze, the small, shareable plate central to Greek cuisine.
At Kentro Greek Kitchen, the majority of the menu is devoted to the mezeplate. Order the vibrant beet salad tossed with figs, crumbly manouricheese, and drizzled with a walnut vinaigrette before moving on to the consistently wonderful charbroiled octopus. If you’re in the mood for meat, look to the mezzedaki plate: a pair of charred lamb chops, a pile of peppery pork loukaniko sausage, a latticed stack of firm kefalotiri cheese, a few slices of toast, and a cup of garlicky tzatziki so potent it’ll keep you thinking of Kentro for the rest of the day.
Olive Pit Mediterranean Grill offers the classic mezethes. There is, of course, the spinach-packed spanakopita burnished to a golden brown, and dolmades, grape leaves stuffed with turkey, rice, pine nuts, currants, and dill. It’s hard to go wrong here, so try a few dips, too, such as thetaramosalata (a blend of caviar, potato, and lemon) and melitzanosalata(creamy eggplant with walnuts, tahini paste, and olive oil).
Orea Taverna & Wine Bar adds some luxury to its mezethes. All the essentials are here (think platters of creamy hummus and briny olives), but so too are gyro-style beef-and-lamb sliders packed into tiny pita breads, and heaps of peel-and-eat shrimp paired with thick, garlicky skordalia sauce. It’s easy to overorder, so bring a few friends and there will be nothing left of those plates of grilled quail, and fat, buttery scallops.
Kentro Greek Kitchen
100 S. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, 714-278-0944 kentrogreekkitchen.com
Olive Pit Mediterranean Grill
2445 E. Imperial Highway, Brea, 714-529-3200
16365 Bolsa Chica St., Huntington Beach, 714-316-5000
Orea Taverna and Wine Bar
1390 N. Kraemer Blvd., Placentia, 714-993-6732 oreataverna.com
Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi
Don’t miss our dining guide with minireviews of 170-plus restaurants and more dining news. See The List
This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue.