The Greek makes a comeback
By Michael Sullivan 05/03/2012
The Greek at the Harbor
1583 Spinnaker Drive, suite 101
The Greek at the Harbor has been around as far back as I remember. In the ’80s, I would eat there with family and friends — it always had a great atmosphere, serene yet fun overlooking the harbor. Though I don’t necessarily remember the food back then, it was always a place I looked forward to visiting. After I returned to Ventura several years ago, I decided to relive some of my fond memories and visit the familiar mainstay of the Ventura harbor. My experience — either I grew up or things had changed, but the experience wasn’t quite as memorable. The food was greasy and heavy, and the environment was not as exciting. When I heard recently, however, that Kitchen Nightmare’s Gordon Ramsey had come to rejuvenate The Greek, I was more than excited to experience the new and improved restaurant.
It has now been several months since Ramsey visited The Greek, and my companions and I thought it was time to see if the changes he implemented had indeed put The Greek on a better track — Ramsey had obviously come for a reason. Suffice it to say, we were quite happy with the changes.
It was a Sunday morning when we strolled into the Mediterranean-themed eatery. As expected, no one was sitting inside the restaurant despite the renovations it had undergone during Ramsey’s visit. It was brighter and more inviting to say the least, but the dining room just simply can’t compete with the harbor views, and the new bar seating was a nice addition to the patio.
Almost immediately after being seated, a server came with warm, fresh sourdough bread and butter and ice water. Within a few minutes, another server came to take our drink orders — she suggested the $2.99 bloody mary or mimosa cocktail. It was definitely a bloody mary day as cool Ventura mornings tend to call for something heartier. Although we all specified our drinks be spicy, none of us could taste any hot spice at all when they arrived. Served with celery salt on the rim, the tomato juice and Worcestershire blend was good enough, with the standard celery stalk and green olives.
For an appetizer, we chose the mezze platter, which include tzatziki (Greek yogurt with cucumber and dill), hummus (chickpeas puréed with oil, lemon, garlic and tahini, a sesame seed paste), falafel (a patty of chickpeas and fava beans with spices and herbs), spanakopita (filo pastries filled with spinach and feta cheese), and chunks of feta cheese with kalamata olives, served with warm pita bread. We also ordered the caviar hummus (taramosalata: smoked cod’s roe, lemon and olive oil). About five to 10 minutes later, our appetizers arrived.
Between the six of us, the mezze platter was quickly divided and the reviews came in. The tzatziki was quite thick for yogurt, but it spread evenly on the pita and was well-balanced with the cucumber and dill. The hummus was smooth and creamy, a bit unusual for hummus, which tends to be more granular. It was a bit heavy on the garlic, but that didn’t stop us from devouring all of it. The falafel was probably the best of all. Crispy on the outside, warm, soft and surprisingly green on the inside — the cooks confirmed it was due to the parsley. It was unlike most falafel dishes I had tried elsewhere, which were too dense, dry and almost unpalatable. The spanakopita was heavy on the feta and a bit greasy. The chunks of feta appetizer were perhaps a bit too rich for our common palates, but, for what it was, the flavor was bitter and intense from the brine and had the common scent of aged cheese. The pita bread practically melted in our mouths, soft, warm and fresh.
The caviar hummus, similar to the regular hummus was infused with almost microscopic fish eggs. The caviar gave it a salty, ocean flavor.
For our main dishes, three of us chose the Monastiraki pita (Greek-style charbroiled ground beef and lamb combination, in a pita with tzatziki, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onions and olives). One companion ordered the calamari appetizer as his main dish, another ordered the B.L.A.T. from the brunch menu.
I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for with the Monastiraki pita. It came out looking like a hot dog made of hamburger. Clearly, I am not used to Greek food — mainly just gyros. But per my companion, the dish came out as expected, and given her experience in eating it at other places, it was a good take on it. I thought the lamb and beef combination was a bit dense, but apparently that is exactly what it is supposed to be.
The calamari was better than most we had tried lately. The batter was light, and even after being fried, it was not greasy. The pieces of squid and tentacles were nice, healthy, bite-sized morsels, and they weren’t chewy, which is what we often find unpleasing at other places.
The B.L.T.A. sandwich looked delish. The bacon was crisp; the avocado was smooth, with a nutty flavor; and the brioche bun was mouthwatering, almost glowing with a coating of butter.
Overall, we were all pleasantly full and happy with the meals. The patio was busy with lots of families chatting over hummus and gyros, and the live entertainment was fun, providing covers of the Beatles and similar bands. While some things were new to us, it was definitely worth trying and going back to give some of the other dishes a try. And if the owners of The Greek decided to market their hummus and falafel, they will need to let me know where I can buy it!