In Homer’s epic, Odysseus and his compatriots make offerings of food and drink to honor the pantheon of Mount Olympus. Had they been diners at Taki’s Greek Kitchen, they may have thought twice before parting with even a morsel.
Located inconspicuously in a shopping plaza in Avon Lake, the restaurant’s exterior may not transport you to faraway Aegean isles, but the interior, with its large, central stone fireplace, will have you basking in a Mediterranean glow. A small, inviting bar and a warmly lit outdoor patio offer more intimate alternatives to the main dining room.
The menu at Taki’s presents the classics — like mezedes, moussaka and an abundance of lamb — simply, with the occasional contemporary flourish. Ample small plates, tried-and-true entrees and generous desserts offer diners reliable options as well as a few chances to experiment.
Sharable, appetizer-sized mezedes offer the best sampling of the fresh, bright flavors for which Greek cuisine is known. Dolmades, distinctively briny grape leaves stuffed with a warm rice and beef mixture and served atop a dollop of refreshingly light tzatziki, are an exciting initiation. The avgolemono, a chicken soup thickened with eggs and flavored generously with lemon and fragrant dill is savory, tart and rich. And the octapodi skaras, featuring tender, char-grilled octopus tentacles bedded on peppery sautéed greens studded with crisped fingerling potato coins, offers a textural combination so satisfying it could be an entrée.
Entrees are generously portioned and focus on one or two main ingredients. The yemistes pipieres are two roasted stuffed red peppers brimming with orzo accented with vegetables and herbs. Balsamic reduction adds a welcome acidic counterpoint to the filling’s earthiness. The peppers, like several other entrees, come with a side “TK salad,” a lettuce-based mix inspired by the more substantial Greek original. A highlight of the menu is the arni youvetsi: braised lamb shank draped in cinnamon-scented tomato sauce with orzo. All it takes to separate meat from bone here is a gently applied fork. The combination of robust lamb and aromatic sauce is delicious enough to stand alone, but the value of the orzo as a sauce delivery vehicle cannot be overstated.
The wine list boasts numerous Greek bottles rounded out with a variety of New World selections. Many are served by the glass. The 2012 Domaine Tselepos Moschofilero, a white with traces of tropical fruit and a gentle minerality, paired well with appetizers, especially the avgolemono. And a fruity, slightly spicy, red Agiorgitiko from the same producer and vintage proved a perfect complement to the braised lamb’s depth.
For dessert, though the baklava à la mode will beckon, opt for the ekmek, which is layered like baklava but is even richer. Built on a foundation of honey-caramelized phyllo shreds, it is layered with custard and cream, topped with a crust of crushed pistachios and is finished with sliced strawberries and fresh mint garnish.
The house was full on a Friday night, but we were seated immediately with a reservation. Service was prompt and consistent, and the chef making the rounds from table to table was just one of many gestures of genuine hospitality that make Taki’s a culinary odyssey worth repeating.