Name: O Stratos Greek Taverna
Address: 9 Lonsdale St, Braddon, ACT
Phone: (02) 6257 8200
Hours: Tue-Fri 12pm-2:30pm, 6pm-9:30pm; Sat 6pm-9:30pm
There are a few staples of the restaurant scene, places that you find reproduced across the country.
There’s the old-school Chinese restaurant, with a bright red duck hanging in the window and deep fried pieces of chicken drowned in a florescent lemon sauce. There’s the Italian place, serving overloaded pizzas and cheap wine in cheaper carafes. There’s the small Thai joint down the road, sending out constant streams of Pad Thai for around $12.
And then, there’s the Greek tavern. When ever you go to one of these, you know what to expect. Dips, platters of grilled seafood and meat, and a Greek salad padded with too much lettuce being the usual fare. Occasionally you get an updated version (Hellenic Republic being the trendsetter), but most fit this mold exactly.
O Stratos is no exception. From start to finish, this is Greek food that doesn’t surprise. They are dishes we all know, and range from just below average to a reasonably good.
You can’t eat Greek and not start with Saganaki. Gooey, sharp fried wedges of cheese are hard to beat. In fact, a craving for this golden chunk of hot dairy was my main reason for going. This was a decent version, served on slices of fresh tomato. A little too thick, and slightly under done for my tastes, but it’s pretty hard to get it too wrong.
Dolmadakia, known more usually as Dolmades, were a little bland. However, a subtle undercurrent of mint cut through, lifting it a little. When combined with some cooling tzatziki, it was rather pleasant.
A rather French style of bread surprised me when it was presented with the dips, as pita was the expectation, but it was good bread nonetheless. The dips, however, were variable. A Htipiti was a plus, being smooth, cool whipped fetta cheese, combined with a serious smack of chilli. Sadly, though, the Taramosalata disappointed, having only a small fraction of what this great, fishy dip can be. The best of the dips was the Skorthalia, a silken combination of potato and truly divine garlic.
Octopus is an ingredient that is not used enough. Here, beautiful purple chunks of octopus are just grilled to exactly the right level of tenderness. With a slight squeeze of lemon this is a great example of what the ocean and a grill can do.
Sadly, the grilled king prawns were a less impressive example. It was fairly clear that these miniscule bites were in no way deserving the title “king”, and were almost certainly mislabeled. Weak in flavour, drizzled with a lackluster lemon and honey combination, and served on bland rice, this was a serious disappointment.
Bypassing the traditional grilled lamb, a wintery Moussaka seemed a more interesting choice. Sadly, it was a little dry, with a bland béchamel. Thankfully, smoky eggplant lifted it to a point of not being a total loss.
A platter of Greek pastries were delightful, various sweet and nutty bites. But the rest were, of course, overshadowed by one of the great inventions of the Greek – democracy, mathematics, and Baklava. It is very difficult to beat the combination of nuts, sticky sweet syrup and pastry, and this version was excellent.
All served with a bottle of white from a basic wine list (sadly lacking in anything Greek), and finished with a thick, unctuous Greek coffee, a meal at O Stratos delivers what you expect. Unfortunately, it delivers it with a bill a little larger than it probably should. Roughly $75 per person is too much for basic food of varying quality.
Even still, I am glad that O Stratos is there. No, it’s not perfect. Far from it, in fact. Some of the dishes going to other tables looked a little frightening at times. Yet there is a reason this type of restaurant is so often reproduced.
Because, sometimes, you just crave fried cheese.