Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Restaurant review: Aegean Restaurant

Monday was a perfect September day - hot in the sun, cool in the shade, and the day off from work. Because my boyfriend and I have such different schedules, we don't get many days to be lazy and we certainly don't get many nights to go out to dinner. When I suggested it, we were waiting at a light near the Home Depot in Watertown and he looked around for the first suggestion he could find which turned out to be Aegean Restaurant. "Greek food tonight?" he asked. Well... er... um... sure. I'd never been in, but imagined a diner ambiance with the kind of greasy, heavy Greek food you buy at a state fair stand. But, you know, I like greasy food, so off we went.

The parking lot was packed, and filled with Cadillacs and elderly people. We looked at each other with raised eyebrows and contemplated going somewhere else, but we opted for an adventure instead. Once inside, the crowd was slightly more diverse although we were easily the youngest people there by about 10 years. We also felt slightly underdressed in shorts and Tshirts. I was reminded of the days when my parents and I would go out to dinner in South Jersey - even when we went to a diner, there were efforts made to clean up first. Slacks were often involved. While I don't think you should always have to dress to impress, and I'm generally a fan of high end food in a casual atmosphere, I like signs that our civilization is not entirely lost by efforts made to look nice before leaving the house. (Don't even get me started on what people wear to the symphony. I've seen sweatpants. SWEAT. PANTS. Do a lot of sweating over the oboe, do you?)

The restaurant was nothing like a diner. It was very clean, lots of blue and white giving it a crisp but warm feel. The lighting was soft and welcoming, and the glass fireplace in the middle of the dining room I already guess will be one of my new favorite destinations on a slushy day this winter. There was a lovely bar area, bright and clean with a flat screen TV, separated from the dining room by a wall. It has already been suggested that our next trip there involve the bar and a constant stream of olives and grape leaves and feta.

Oh the feta.

We sat down and were promptly delivered a basket of bread and large bowl of feta in warm olive oil. I like feta cheese, but in moderation - I hate the mouth-drying saltiness after too long. But this feta was mild and smooth and amazing, and the olive oil took the edge off a little as the flavors blended together. We quickly devoured the entire bowl. Salads were next (cheese optional, which was a nice touch, but we were all over getting some more of that feta. Pile it on, sister!) and I'll pause here to say that I know this review will sound redundant, but the most suprising thing of the night in every aspect was how light everything was. I expected such heaviness in everything and it was all light and flavorful and fantastic. I left completely stuffed, but still with just a hint of taste in my mouth - you know those meals where you feel like you need some sorbet or tea or gum to lighten the load in your body? I didn't feel like that at all.

But back to the salads.

I'm not a huge fan of what I have come to know as Greek dressing - too heavy, and too oily. This was quite light and tart, more tart than the feta even, and we both ended up soaking up the leftover dressing with bread. A vinegary hint, but without the tooth-squeaking vinegar consistency. They were a perfect predecessor to our meals.

I ordered beef souvlaki. I toyed with the idea of the Greek platter, in order to try many foods at once, but I'd remembered having souvlaki at a diner in Jersey once and really liking it. I seem to remember, however, the meal coming with a creamy sort of herbed sauce. Not so this night. The beef was perfectly medium rare, moderately tender, and lightly herbed. I know, I say light a lot in this review. You were already warned. The green beans were fresh, with a bit of snap to them and a wonderful dill overtone. The roasted potatoes were huge and toasted a slightly crispy brown, mushy but not mealy on the inside with an amazing tart taste that I thought at first was lemon, but it was too sweet to be lemon, so maybe a viniagrette of some kind, or an herbed vinegar? Maybe the salad dressing? No idea, but they were fantastic.

BF went with mousakka which sounded fun and tasted fantastic. Sliced eggplant on the bottom was topped by ground beef (I couldn't help thinking how great this would taste with lamb and/or sausage as well) and some sort of cream cheese layer that was whipped and creamy like really really good mashed potatoes, and a sweet tomato cream sauce over the whole thing. It came with a side of rice that was buttery and blended unbelievably well with more of the tomato sauce on top.

We were so hungry when we sat down that we ate quickly and were stuffed at the end of the meal. I'm still kicking myself for not considering saving room for baklava when I had the chance, although it's certainly a great reason (not that I needed another) to return to Aegean and soon. The portions were perfect, the food delicious, the service quick, and the bill came in around $30. Another successful dinner adventure!