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Skara Grill: Yassou, West Roxbury!

Skara

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.

youvetsi
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).

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Comments

No Fribbles?

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Was Nescafe frappes, which I think is sort of like a Starbucks frozen drink thing, only made with espresso, wise guy.

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Pronounced "Frapp-Ay" as in "Day". I worked at a Greek restaurant for a while so I get really pedantic about my beverages. ;)

Painful amount of caffeine if made correctly. On the other hand, you can make one with virtually zero fat, calories and sugar.

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Maybe you could work on a book about 'Friendly Recycling', and document all these places that used to be in a Friendly Ice Cream parlor/restaurant and retain the architectural features.

It could be a local bookstore hit.

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And do the same thing with old HoJos.

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Locals tell me that this East Cambridge Savings Bank branch, at Highland Ave. and Cedar St., used to be a Friendly's.

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You have to get a quote from Stewart Brand:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_Buildings_Learn

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Their website had a scanned image of the menu, but darned if I could read it. Maybe I'm not clicking something.

So, basically, their name is Grill Grill?

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Yes...just as Mount Katahdin is Mount The Greatest Mountain.

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Shripm Scampi mean Shrimp Shrimp.
that one always bothered me...

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I'm betting most people in West Roxbury wouldn't get it. In Roslindale, on the other hand (and why isn't there a Greek restaurant there?) ...

Yeah, I got my info from the paper menu they have at the restaurant itself. The dinner menu is two full pages of tiny (but legible) type.

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I'm patiently waiting for a Balkan resto to open in Roslindale. There are so many Albanians, you would think there would be business?

So WTF is the story with the King place? I drive by there every day and I swear they completely renovated in the space of 6 hours? Perhaps anything would look nicer than the old sign ...

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Cafe Apollonia, which failed, became Boston Brickhouse, failed again.

Yeah, they sure are speedy at the old Samia's, but then, it's not like there was a lot in there to begin with.

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...new Shawarma King? As in the guys on Beacon St in Brookline? Where on Centre?

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Although they're just going to call it The King, or the Kings or something like that, but it's the same guy who owns the place on Beacon Street. He bought Samia's (map) when Samia had to retire for health reasons, and there's a sign in the window announcing a June 1 opening.

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It's going to basically be right next door to the Real Deal Deli. I was at McGolf and my friend and I were looking for some place to grab a lunch and ended up stumbling upon the Real Deal via a Google Maps search for "sandwiches" in that area. Great find (although I'm sure you locals knew about it all along). Walked right by the renovation of "The King" and recognized the logo as the Shwarma King's visage from closer to my neck of the woods. If it's anything like the original in Brookline, then it's going to be great Lebanese food.

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The King was hopping on Sunday afternoon, a steady stream of take-outs, sit-downs, and pick-ups. We tried the hommus, the falafel, the chicken kebab, the lamb sausage, and the kibbe. All were somewhere between excellent and talk-about-it-for-a-week-amazing. No, there is no shwarma. Pretty much anything they make will go in a toasted pita sandwich wrapped up with spiced salad, pickles, and garlic sauce. Or on a plate, your choice. The jallab is also delicious and a refreshing counterpoint to the kibbe, which is a little salty.

A couple at the next table had driven up from Quincy just to have lunch there. They said it was the best Lebanese food in the Boston area. I believe them. One and all, hie thee to the King.

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No doubt that Schwarma King is the best Lebanese take-out food in the city. If the one in West Roxbury is doing daily specials in steam trays like the one in Brookline, check them out as they're almost always good. The service in Brookline (and assumedly West Roxbury is some of the friendliest when it comes to talking about their offerings too).

However, I have to say that a sit-down restaurant in Newtonville at the corner of Walnut and Washington called Karoun is slightly more upscale and also has higher quality offerings as a result. On Fridays and Saturdays they also have live music and belly dancing as well. The family that owns the place is *really* nice.

Disclaimer: I'm quarter-Lebanese.

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In my opinion, you'll find the same quality at The King as at Shwarma King, because they're owned by the same guy (who should now be referred to as the Emperor, I guess). I've eaten at both places. I was a little bummed they wouldn't have shwarma in West Rox, because I do love Shwarma, but my disappointment faded into a memory when the food came. The menu is a little different, with more emphasis on cooked to order skewers, but the spices are sure to be the same, as well as some side dishes. At this point there aren't any daily specials on the menu, and I didn't see a space for steam trays in the kitchen. But those soujok lamb sausages are to die for.

I'd like to try the food at Karoun too, but I imagine it's a little bit different, as it is an Armenian restaurant. Are they Armenian via Lebanon? If I get out that way sometime I'll try some similar dishes for comparison to see if the spices are different. But I expect that some people looking for Lebanese food in the Boston area wouldn't put Karoun in the running. Also, it's unclear whether it's halal.

In any case, a very hearty welcome to the neighborhood for The King. I was very happy to see it so hopping on Sunday, and I intend to go through their menu systematically (except for the shrimp... so strange that's halal in some sects).

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The last time I was there, I talked to the owner. He identified himself as Lebanese, but I do see they call themselves Armenian. Maybe he has one of each parent, because he says his mother still works in the kitchen to make some of the food and we had both the hot and cold mezza and my mother couldn't have told you it was anything but what she's used to from her mother.

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3 of us went to Skara Sunday around 6 pm...filled with anticipation! We all ordered a different lamb dinner, and it was....ok. We had a long wait for our food, as well, so we were pretty hungry by the time it arrived. (The waitress comped us a glass of wine for our wait, which was nice!) I remarked that I would not order the Lamb Youvetsi (sounded patriotic!) again, as it was just "ok", and my family said the same thing about their
meals (Lamb Dinner Kebab & Kleftiko). I thought at least one of those lamb dishes would be exceptional. I will give it a rest, and then maybe try a Gyro....kind of pricy @ $9.95, though....
I am glad to see this storefront reopen, however, for sure...they did a beautiful job remodeling it!

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Their lunch gyro will be $6.95. Plus, I suspect Schwarma King South will have gyro.

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I had the dinner gyro yesterday and it was good, worth the $9.95 I think. It also came with a choice of french fries or house salad.

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Which is when the Boston Licensing Board holds a hearing on Skara's application for enough outdoor tables for 20 seats.

It's wonderful there is a state-appointed board to do favors for Dianne Wilkerson oversee tables with umbrellas, because you know how difficult a task that would be for, say, an ISD inspector.

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