310 E. Main Street, CA, http://www.diodeka.com/ (408) 354-7700
Greek food consists either of roasted meats or the baked dishes and stews that comprise home cooking. Fine dining and Greek food seem like a contradiction, because most people, I believe, associate the food of Ελλασ with comfort and casual eating — as well they should. The grilled fish and chops of the tavernas I’ve eaten in over the years stand out in my memory as some of the best food ever, but partly because of the geniality of the typical atmosphere in which Greek people prefer to eat.
When a friend of mine, Emily, and I drove down to Los Gatos recently to take an old friend and colleague to lunch, Greek food seemed a fitting choice for two Byzantinists and a step-child of Byzantine Studies (myself). I had my doubts about Dio Deka, to begin with. In the end, the convenience of a restaurant close to the assisted living center where George lives worked in our favor.
The restaurant is in a spa-hotel. Its dining room resembled most non-descript expensive hotel restaurants — light browns, dark wood beams, white walls. Nothing in its anodyne decor to indicate any national allegiance. None of the staff seemed to be Greek or speak Greek, although the three of us suspected that the servers had been given a crash course in Greek phonetics.
We each had a plate of soup and chose from a list of small plates (mezedhes). Astakos Avgolemono was a silky smooth egg yolk and lemon soup with a little shredded Maine lobster and very little orzo topped by a foam that the menu identified as a “egg-lemon fumet.” The briny flavor combined pleasantly with the lemon.
I ordered a small plate of Plevrakia, mesquite-grilled babyback pork riblets, infused with nutmeg and ouzo, accompanied by a finely diced pickled quince and pistachio relish. The meat was succulent and came off the bone easily.
The server placed in front of Emily a plate of Loukanika, a round lamb sausage patty with a distinct taste of orange peel lying on top a bed of white beans dressed with thyme-scented honey and sherry vinaigrette. All flavors, except the thyme-flavored honey, stood out.
George had a xoriatiki, a Greek salad, that was piled high in romaine lettuce leaves.
The food was good, not especially fussy, and noticeable for vivid flavorings. And no discernible pools of olive oil on the plate! Dio Deka does not serve food that is remotely traditional. I noticed moussaka on the menu, but I would be willing to bet that it would be unrecognizable.
Now, if they only found a way to bring kokoretzi into our Slow Food world…