Thursday, June 10, 2010

Progressive Greek: Petros, Manhattan Beach

When Greek Australian epic blogger Peter of Souvlaki for the Soul contacted me about meeting up during a layover he had in the Los Angeles area for a few days, Petros came to mind. It's the only progressive Greek restaurant I've been to that I know exists in Southern California. See,  Peter grew up in Melbourne, Australia, which is basically the biggest Greek community outside of Greece (something close to 1 million Greeks). He's seen many a taverna, gyro stand and cheesy big fat Greek establishment in his day.

 Petros is different in California Mediterranean sophistication sort of way.

There are no belly dancers.

There is a patio area laden with white table clothed tables and tiny sparkling lights. Just like Greece, but with a Housewives of Manhattan Beach sort of flair (or maybe it was just the middle aged cougs getting hammered off martinis next to us).

Nonetheless, the Greek Aussie, the Cretan mathematician Mathlete,  my friend Kat (who at this point is honorary Greek), and my Greek Cali self were seated in the patio on a busy Saturday night without much wait thanks to Peter's super cool Aussie accent and not thanks to me forgetting to make ressies. We started off with complimentary dips of skordalia (an ultra potent garlicky dip) and kopanisti (roasted red pepper dip).

Duo Dips: Garlic and Red Pepper flavas

Alongside our dips came fresh, warm pitas and bread

Peter eagerly ordered a Mythos - the smooth, crisp national beer of Greece.

Mythos: the real Greek beer

Noticing the lahanodolmathes as one of the daily specials, we selected this nostalgic dish of spiced rice and minced meat rolled up in cabbage leaves topped with a tangy lemony avgolemeno sauce. Although the lahanodolmathes were a respectable nod to Greek comfort food, nothing compares to this dish made at home :) i.e. the ones my Aunt Mary makes.

Cheating on Aunt Mary 

Grilled Octopus is one of my favorite foods and coincidentally a popular Greek mezze. I enjoyed the tenderness of the octopus flesh contrasted by the char marks all in a pool of olive oil topped with a sprinkling of oregano. I love how Petros's version comes with roasted beets, which also soak up some of those delicious octo-olive oil juices. 

Octo-Pus n Beets

Nikos Saganaki is one of the main reasons I keep coming back to Petros with their twist on a traditional fried cheese dish: mild feta encrusted in sesame seeds, flash fried, then drizzled with warm honey and plump golden raisins. It's magic. 

The new saganaki: Nikos Saganaki

Another reason is their calamari. My favorite calamari in the world is here - it's tender and the batter is light and not overly greasy. Olives, almonds, and lemons slices are battered and fried with the calamari to make every bite interesting. The lemon garlic sauce may look suspect, but it is essential and adds a cooling tang to the dish.

Best Calamari in the world. The end. 

Your favorite Kefthethes or meatballs must always be your mother's (or in my case, my Aunt Mary's) and maybe that's why Petros uses his mom's recipe, which of course is a secret, but I guess his mom spikes hers with a few shots of Ouzo and a dash of Opa! Bottom line is the kefthedes were super moist with a pleasant crust. Ridiculously smooth mashed potatoes and a good dose of horta go great.

Don't tell your mom you ate these, and liked them. Baaaad!

When my dad goes to Greece he always brings bags of protein bars which he offers to everyone as "Californian candy bars."  His cousins make fun of him, telling him to drop that pre-fabricated brouhaha and just eat paidakia or lamb. Which is exactly what we did. It was tender and flavorful.

Meat candy

Being with two other Greeks and a willing-and-eager Greek food eater, it was destined that we order a serving of moussaka, the national dish of Greece.  Petros's version requires big spoons as they use a hefty hand with the sauce. The eggplant, spiced minced meat and bechamel bubbling out of its dish was a lovely version, but nothing compares to the best moussaka ever. 

You make me wanna Moussaka

I don't think any of us wanted this dinner to end so we ordered a dessert to buy time. We all basically agreed bougatsa was our favorite. Petros makes theirs with a vanilla bean semolina custard inside phyllo with cinnamon ice cream.

And shots of espresso for all, except for the mathlete who isn't quite the coffee drinker he will eventually become :)

Espresso with lemon rind

Oh, and the dress code is supposedly enforced after 5pm and a lot of the Lakers hang out here (Go Blazers!).

451 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 545-4100


weezermonkey said...

Ooh, this looks fantastic! I would need to print this out and use it as my guide. :)

Peter M said...

Anna-panna-fo-fanna, I woulc oome down to LA just to sup at Petros...everything looks fab...despite the Aussie present, speaking weird English! lol

Esi said...

That sesame crusted saganaki looks amazing! If I ever get down to Manhattan beach...

Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

LOL! This naughty Greek with the "weird English" -LOL! has yet to post his experience at Petros...will do soon! It was a wonderful night with lots of food and new found friends...thank you for your kind hospitality that night Anna!

Diana said...

Please take me with you next time! Beets and octopus? Yes, please! :)

Banana Wonder said...

Weezermonkey - Hah, oh I think you should just take me along next time as your personal talking guide:)

Peter - What are you waiting for, eh! I'm wondering what the Toronto Greek community has in terms of progressive greek cuisine?

Esi - If you do, holler at a Greek woman!

Peter - Can't wait to see your post (and amazing photos, as always). So great to meet you and I hope you come back soon!

Diana - I think you are officially my octopus eating compadre. We may need to work that into the TALF acronym.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Anna,

Thanks for the great review. The Saganaki looks so good and if you're raving about it, it must be. :)

So would you say Petros is your favorite Greek restaurant in LA? Or is there somewhere else you'd recommend for great Greek food. Thanks!

Banana Wonder said...

Exile Kiss - Thank you :) Have you had Greek food before? I like Tony Taverna for more traditional Greek and Petros for a twist on things. I am trying Aliki's next weekend so you never know, things may change :)

SouthBayGuy said...

I love MB and now I have a good excuse to visit it. On a 1 to 10 scale, where would you rate the moussaka? And good calmari? OMG

Banana Wonder said...

Southbayguy - The moussaka is good - kind of soupy. I'd give it a 7?? But go for the calamari and glass of ouzo / moschofilero if anything :)

CaliforniaKat said...

I'm partial to saganaki with Metsovo. Love that smokey goodness!

Banana Wonder said...

CaliKat - with Metsovo?? Never had it that way. Sounds intriguing.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Anna,

The only Greek food I've had that could be "real"(?) would be Papadakis Taverna in San Pedro / Long Beach (it's closed now). So I'm in your hands for recommendations. (^_~)

OK, I'll have to try Tony Taverna. And let me know how Aliki's turns out. :) Thanks!

Banana Wonder said...

Exile Kiss - Yeap! RIP Papadakis. I'm due for another Taverna Tony visit myself, now that you mention it! Aliki's review to come...

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Debra Mennins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debra Mennins said...

Everything looks amazing. I'd want to go there and just stay the whole day and evening but I think my cosmetic dentist los angeles would have something to say about my eating habits.