Neighbors know where to eat Review: Zorba's looks a little dated, but then there's the chicken, and the Greek salad, and the bread

October 05, 1997|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

The Black Olive, which opened this past spring in Fells Point, reminded Baltimoreans how much they like good Greek food. At least it reminded me; I'm guessing about the rest of you because the new restaurant has been so successful.

The reason I bring it up is that my meal at the Black Olive inspired me to return recently to the one other Greek restaurant in the city that specializes in grilled meat and fish, Zorba's on Eastern Avenue.

When Zorba's opened in 1992, it, too, got a lot of favorable press. I had a fine meal there, but somehow never got back till now.

My first thought when I entered the narrow dining room, dominated by a handsome oak bar in front and an open rotisserie in back, was how little Zorba's has changed. The tables sport the same blue-and-white checked tablecloths, or so tTC it seems. The same black-and-white stills from the movie "Zorba the Greek" decorate the walls. The same plastic grapevines entwine the banister.

Now, though, it all seems a bit faded. What was a very pretty restaurant has turned into a neighborhood hangout, a little worn around the edges, with two TVs going. But I happen to like neighborhood hangouts, especially when every table is taken on a Tuesday night. I figure all those people must know something.

They must come for the rotisserie chicken, half a bird per serving, herb-scented and juicy under its crisp skin.

They must come for the "Greek Village Salad," generous with wedges of ripe tomato, red onions, green peppers, cucumbers, Greek olives and feta cheese.

They must come for the basket of warm, freshly grilled bread. It's delicious with a chilled bottle of Santorini; some garlicky eggplant salad; and Zorba's charred and sliced octopus, served cold with a squeeze of lemon.

But Zorba's is one of those restaurants where if you don't know what to order you could end up with a mediocre meal. Thin fillets of grilled swordfish had a faintly fishy taste. On my last visit there, the lamb was superb. This time around, my grilled lamb chops were greasy and strong-flavored. Vegetables were even more overdone than they are traditionally in Greek cooking.

Our spirits picked up with dessert, though. I've had enough of the chocolate pate death decadence instant heart attack desserts to last a lifetime. These were a welcome change. An ugly but tasty rice pudding, fresh baklava, and the milky custard and pastry dessert called galaktoboureko saved the day.

Zorba's

Where: 4710 Eastern Ave.

Hours: Open every day for dinner

Prices: Appetizers: $2.50-$9.95; entrees: $8.95-$16.95; major credit cards

Call: 410-276-4484

Pub Date: 10/05/97

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