Tuesday night I had the pleasure of joining the Friends of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Egg & Dart for a very special, exclusive preview dinner. The space is named after the signature molding found in ancient Greek architecture. Co-owners Costa Grillas & Niko Theodorou successfully maintained the simplicity and elegance traditionally found in Greek design and, more importantly, cuisine. The restaurant, decorated in mostly whites and pale blues, with a shiny concrete floor mimicking the ocean, served as the perfect canvas for traditional food with a twist.
The meal began with an array of mezze: hummus, herring caviar dip, and the best tzatziki I’ve ever had. But we’ll get more into that later. The hummus was good, though nothing out of the ordinary. Sprinkled with paprika, the dollop of chickpea dip was citrusy and rustic, although a tad trite and heavy. At first I thought the piping looked a tad early-90s. You know, like salmon mousse in a cucumber cup? Then Stef sent me the following quote, and it all made sense: Don Henley of the The Eagles in “Waiting in the Weeds” references “the tide’s eternal tune, the phases of the moon, the chambers of the heart, the egg-and-dart.” The allusion apparently keeps with the song’s theme of life’s ongoing and dependable cycles, i.e., repeating patterns. Viola! Maybe Costa and Niko just liked the fancy pattern. Then again, maybe they are just as wise as they are good looking (and they are very good looking).
The bread was the perfect combination of crusty and doughy. That kind of crustiness that slightly tears the roof of your mouth when you bite into it.
Holy dip! This smoky, fishy, creamy dip was good. I’ve actually never tasted anything like it. Although I immediately noticed hints of herring, it took me a while to realize it was caviar lending the unique, rich, saltiness I likedso much. When I go back to Egg & Dart, I may order this again. It is different, but there’s something about piped fish that confuses me. My dining guest, on the other hand, absolutely loved it. To each their own.
The Greek salad was tasty and predictable. Capers were a nice, salty addition, but nothing out of the ordinary. It’s always nice to find crisp, fresh veggies shining on their own, accentuated only by great olive oil. I would order this again because, well, its a namesake dish and I’m a sucker for feta cheese.
Beets! Apples! Some tart, cheesy, lemony creation that I cannot name. It was fantastic. I’ve had fantasties of this deliciously citrusy substance, alone, in dimmed lighting, while John Mayer serenades me. In my fantasy, John doesn’t get a bite. Sorry. Actually, I’m not sorry. I digress, back to the salad. The beets were perfectly cooked, cold, and topped with sliced apples and toasted, crushed walnuts. I appreciate the rustic, large chunks of fruit & veggies, but maybe a julienned version would allow for bites of all ingredients at once, which could really heighten the flavor combinations. But I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I was nervous to try grilled octopus because I could see the tentacles and frankly, that scares me a little. These tiny morsels, though light, were slightly chewy . Maybe with a little less char flavor and a little more lemon juice, this dish would have definite potential. I think as the restaurant progresses, the octopus will be a customer favorite.
I really enjoyed these little Greek matzo ball-esque seafood dumplings. They were tender and briny, swimming in a seriously yummy saffron sauce. I wish the sauce was thicker because, well, I would have drank it. But, when paired with the light yet rich dumplings, the sauce was spot on. Rich, brothy, and so yellow that you immediately know it could be infused with nothing else but saffron. My only complaint is that I wish it were served warmer. I would order this dish next time because it was not only tasty, but unique.
Before I wrote this little section about the eggplant puree, I got up and walked around for inspiration on how to best describe this insane dish. Epic fail. I can’t. You really, really need to go taste it. It defies all laws of eggplant. The eggplant resembled pureed cauliflower or super buttery mashed potatoes. When I think of eggplant, specifically in Greek cuisine, I typically envision baba ganoush, moussaka, etc. This was no baba ganoush. It was like a salty, velvet puree enrobing the cubes of perfectly cooked lamb. Oh, and the lamb, which didn’t taste like lamb at all, but perfectly braised short ribs. They were tender and amazing. At this point in the meal, the owner stopped by our table. I looked up at him, fork in hand, gushed about this little, beige puree on my plate and continued eating. Honestly, I was more concerned about shoveling the dish in my mouth before the servers cleared the table than talking to anyone. Listen people, go to Egg & Dart, order this dish, and let me know what you think. It surpassed any realm of Greek food I have ever had. Stop reading this and go. Now.
Nothing finishes off a somewhat healthy, yet delicious meal than little fried nuggets. Although I would have liked to see dessert options and maybe something a little more complex, the donuts were light and airy. The strawberries were macerated in the honey and cinnamon added a kick of sweetness. They Greek beignets were the perfect ending to a nice meal and a warm, lovely evening.
Costa brought around shots of Mastika for everyone. I assumed we would be drinking ouzo, but was pleasantly surprised to take down a different Greek liquor. Mastika, derived from Mastik, plant resin, had notes of rosemary, anise, lemon, and peppermint. It was sweeter and a lot more forgiving than ouzo.
Egg & Dart serves delicious, truly-inspired food. They stay true to their Greek roots but elevate the flavors and cooking techniques. I always like to know what I’m eating and was slightly annoyed when waiters could not tell me the ingredients in the dishes. Oh well, this will come with time and technically, the restaurant had not even opened yet. The “Friends” event was a nice tribute to the co-owners and their new space. I highly recommend checking out Egg & Dart, especially during Miami Spice.