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Kokkari Estiatorio

January 4, 2006

When thinking of the Bay Area’s best Greek restaurant, no other name can come to mind but Kokkari (and its sister restaurant Evvia, in Palo Alto). This Jackson Square landmark serves up delicious, generally well-prepared dishes in a lovely setting, and it sets the standard that other similar restaurants must try to meet.It’s best to come to Kokkari with a group, because then you can sample a variety of their starters, which are real winners; actually, they’re even more intriguing than the entrees are. Many of their dishes come with a thick, almost focaccia-like pita bread. An entertaining treat are the fried smelts,

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which, after I was just thinking about their resemblance to French fries, our poetic waiter referred to as “fries with eyes.” The smelts are served with a garlic-potato skordalia, which actually does not really add much to the dish, although it would seem bare to have only smelts on the plate. The zucchini cakes, which were served with a minty yogurt dip were a delight, though the cakes were flavorful enough alone, and hardly required any dressing. The grilled octopus

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is minimally cooked with olive oil and topped with oregano, but the freshness and perfect texture of the octopus easily carry the dish without any more fuss — and although nothing quite beats the (sadly) defunct Splendido’s grilled octopus appetizer, Kokkari’s version delivers the goods. For an entree, I ordered the ravioli of horta, whose main sidekick participants were feta cheese and finely roasted porcini mushrooms:

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It was, all in all, quite a good dish. My only criticism would be that the preparation was almost too subtle, so that the powerful flavor of the feta tended to overpower rather than combine with the other flavors. Nonetheless, the ingredients used were all quite fresh. Kokkari does an excellent job of blending a Californian penchant for fresh ingredients with Greek cuisine.As for the rest of the dining experience, it was just as good. The service was friendly and attentive, and the restaurant itself is very cozy to be in (even more so because when I went, it was in escape of an otherwise cold, dreary, rainy day). The restaurant space has many different nooks and crannies. The front area has loaves of bread piled in front of an inviting fireplace, and there are padded, high-backed chairs at the tables, topped off by a nice bar,

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so that this particular room more resembles the lounge/common area of a nice hotel than a restaurant. Venture in a little further, and there is a whole other half to the restaurant, which looks more like a regular restaurant. There’s even an intriguing basement area. All in all, Kokkari provides a grand dining experience. Unfortunately, it also does so at great cost. This a great place to go to if you can expense the meal, or if someone else happens to be paying. If necessary, skip a couple meals to save up, and then run, don’t walk, to Kokkari, and experience great Greek cuisine.

RATING:

COST:

200 Jackson Street (at Front St.)
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: 415.981.0983
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 11:30am – 10:00 pm; Fri, 11:30 am – 11:00 pm; Sat, 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm. Bar menu only on weekdays, 2:30-5:30 pm. Closed Sunday.

Cuisine: Greek
Neighborhood:
Financial District

How to get there: This restaurant is a short walk from Muni lines 1, 2, 7, 9X, 10, 12, 14, 21, 41, 71, F, J, K, L, M, N, T, and the California Street cable car line. Closest BART/Muni Metro station is Embarcadero.

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