Skara Grill on Centre Street (you know, where the Friendly's used to be) had its "soft opening" this past weekend - dinners only, between 5 and 10 p.m. as the owners and workers get set for the grand opening on May 31 (when they'll be opening for lunch as well).
We were heading down Centre yesterday around dinner time, saw the "Now Open" sign and couldn't resist.
If you remember the old Friendly's, the transformation inside is kind of amazing - the owners put a lot into re-doing the whole place, and it shows. Instead of a longish, narrow dining area, now there's basically a largeish square, with saffron walls with Greek paintings (I'm assuming), an interesting copperplate ceiling and soft lighting. There's a semi-open kitchen, with a prominent place of honor for the rotating gyro slab, as well as a large wine rack (beer is also available). Outside, there's a small patio area, on the bank side, along with lots of plantings.
The menu is amazingly extensive. I don't know Greek food that well, but if they left anything out, it's probably just for lack of room. To start, you get warm ciobatta bread and pita slices (you can watch the cook toasting them on a gril next to the gyro) and olive oil. It'd be easy to fill up just on this, but, of course, you try to restrain yourself (right?).
As an appetizer, I got the melizanosalata ($4.95) - smoked eggplant and roasted garlic dip with, of course, more pita bread (not that I was complaining). If the eggplant had any smoked taste, it was overpowered by the garlic, but garlic fans certainly won't mind that.
The youvetsi arrives.
For the main course, I ordered chicken youvetsi ($13.95), which is braised chicken mixed with orzo pasta and tomato sauce and topped with some sharp, shaved cheese. It was delicious. The serving size was just right - not too small and not so large that you eat the whole thing and regret it. Nancy ordered solomos ($21.95), which is your basic grilled salmon. She reports it was good except it seemed to have been sitting under a warming light a bit too long. The kidlet, not feeling adventurous after a night with an upset tum, went for grilled chicken fingers (Skara has a bunch of non-Greek dishes for such folks). Top it all off with some carrot cake and baklava (both $5.95) and we were all set.
The only problem is something that's not too surprising in a restaurant that just opened: The wait for the food. The entrees came just as we were beginning to wonder "where's the food?" - at one point the waitress told us she was waiting on "one more item" (probably the youvetsi since, as mentioned, the salmon seemed to have been waiting a bit). But since she started out by telling us the reason for the limited hours initially was to let the new staff get the kinks out, and since the food was still good, we're sure they'll work this out. The only other slightly disconcerting thing: The silverware came wrapped in paper napkins, in a restaurant where the decor and the prices would seem to indicate cloth napkins. On the whole though, I can't wait for them to start serving lunch (although it'll be a tough Mediterranean choice on Centre with the new Shawarma King opening up next week on the other end of Centre).