Greek drama

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

I'll start off addressing impressions. Concerning the former Greek restaurant called Niki's, I had lasting and fond ones. But they were based on a place that closed down long before we had so many other gyro and calamari slingers around town - now there's tons.

Concerning the new Mykonos Taverna in Gahanna - which is run by the same Niki's people - my impressions have ranged from first and very good to mixed. Don't get me wrong, I like the place, but after my initial dinner there, I was ready to proclaim it a new favorite. That's why it's not fair to anyone to do a full review based on a single meal.

By point of illustration, here's three mini reviews tied to three separate dining occasions. All they have in common is the same, inconsistent restaurant.

Dinner, Friday

As far as local Greek restaurants go, everything's a little better at Mykonos. The Greek salad's made with all Romaine lettuce. The tzatziki is tangier, richer and has more freshly shredded cucumber. The tender lamb shank is meatier, bigger and has a longer-cooked, more intense sauce. And the belly dancing is hotter.

That's right, I said belly dancing. You see on weekends, Mykonos features (mostly) live music with periodic appearances by a pelvis-shimmying dancer dressed in very appropriate attire. Overall, dinner service was friendly and quite efficient, as successive courses were paced out properly. As I polished off a bottle of cheap Greek wine, I almost didn't want to leave.

Dinner, Saturday (two weeks later)

What happened? We barely stabbed a fork into our appetizer (which was incorrectly made) when our flustered waitress prematurely -and simultaneously - trotted out with our soups, salads and entrees. Yet my broiled cod still arrived C.O.D. (cold on delivery). After complaining, the same partly chewed fish was re-served to me (though hotter). Then we were presented with another table's bill. What's more - or less - Mykonos was out of several menu items. Oh well, the belly dancing was still fun.

Lunch, one week later

OK, at least this meal featured more hits than misses. Obviously the lesson at Mykonos is: some of the stuff is good, some not so good. Certainly on the plus side is the convivial mood and look of the place (even though it's stuck in a strip mall).

Mykonos unsurprisingly sports the de-rigueur Greek eatery whitewashed walls accented with bright splashes of Aegean blue. It also has a fabric-bladed facsimile windmill that's part of a smile-making little Greek Village scene. With its colorful house fronts and mini balconies, that village tableau gives the impression it could've been trucked in straight from the Mamma Mia! set. For my food impressions of Mykonos, check out the boxes below.

Best bets:

Lamb Youvetsi ($19): A lust fest of unctuous, juicy meat - about three meals' worth - literally fell off a brontosaurus-sized bone. Atop the lamb was cheese, parsley and a boatload of a dark, complex, cinnamon-scented tomato sauce. Beneath the beast was a family-sized serving of orzo - this entree was special.

Cold Spread Sampler ($10): On a massive platter came: terrific tzatziki; rich and creamy hummus; stout skordalia (potato and garlic dip); surprisingly sweet melitzanosalata (mashed eggplant) and a salty, spicy and creamy feta melange here called kafteri. All dips were resplendent (to me) with raw garlic.

Chicken Mykonos ($13): Thick, juicy, herb-speckled pieces of poultry with excellent evidence of grill time came slathered with Greek tomato sauce and sided with al dente pasta

Lentil soup ($4 cup/$5 bowl): Top-notch, tomato-based, comforting, hearty and chunky

Tomato Feta Tower ($7): A thickly sliced ripe tomato (the menu described as skinned, but sometimes not) re-formed into a globe with layers of creamy feta and accents of herbs, served above a tart red-wine vinaigrette

Entree salads ($9): Get 'em with the intense, heavily applied aioli-style dressing on the side; try the thick, herby gyro meat or garlic-breaded (greasy) fried calamari

The rest

Broiled Cod ($14): Thick and meaty but mushy-textured. Its lemon butter sauce was absent lemon flavor.

Pork Souvlaki ($5.50): If you don't mind sloppy, it's pretty delicious. A big, toasty pita was piled up with about a head of shredded iceberg lettuce, chopped tomato, too much garlic sauce and chunks of herby, juicy-enough pork kebabs. Came with OK fries.

Pastitsio ($7.50 lunch; $12.50 dinner): Had the expected cinnamon-scented ground beef and rich bechamel cap, but was dry and tough. Came with homey green beans stewed with tomato and onion.