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My Big Fat Favorite Greek Food – in Las Vegas Weekly

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Perhaps no ethnic food in America has been more denuded of its character than Greek. Every Greek restaurant has a menu so similar to every other Greek restaurant; you would swear the menus were printed en masse. Even worse is the cooking—so standardized it all tastes as if it came from a single, communal kitchen.

Being of Greek-American lineage, I have a theory about this sorry state of affairs: Greek food is so relentlessly generic because most of the people cooking it (and those who brought it to America in the first place) aren’t chefs. Like my relatives, thousands of Greeks came to America in the 20th century looking for opportunity, and found it by running lunch counters and small restaurants. The food and recipes never progressed beyond a dozen or so staples, and stagnation quickly set in.

But slowly, over the past 20 years, Greek food has started to regain the respect it deserves—thanks mainly to some young chefs in larger cities, like Michael Symon in Cleveland and Michael Psilakis in New York. They have worked hard to raise this cuisine above these clichés. In Las Vegas, nothing so extraordinary is going on, but at least we have the Fat Greek to show us what real Greek food is supposed to taste like.

Gyro

Gyro

Restaurant Guide

Fat Greek
4001 S. Decatur Blvd., 222-0666. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Suggested dishes: tirokefteri dip, $5.25; avgolemono soup, $3.50 cup, $4.95 bowl; Village Greek salad, $7.95; moussaka, $12.95.
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In terms of innovation, the food at the Fat Greek is hardly groundbreaking. But its versions of many Greek staples are done to a turn, by professionals who know how to dress up a plate and season it to a fare-thee-well. It is, by far, the best Greek restaurant in town, mainly because of these dedicated chefs in the kitchen.

Those chefs are the Gourmroians (father Yanni and son Jerry) and Nikolas Georgousis—the latter from Athens, Greece—who put their stamp of authenticity on everything from pasticcio to moussaka to an amazing but simple dish called macaronia me Kyma, which might be the richest mac and cheese in town.

Before you get to those, however, you’ll need to navigate an appetizer menu rich in discoveries. Few Greek restaurants take the time to make taramasalata (the red cod- or carp-roe dip) as good as the version here. Unlike the mass-produced product, this isn’t bright pink with food coloring; it’s brightly flavored with lemon and olive oil, and just enough caviar-like pungency to make things interesting. As good as that is, another dip—the spicy feta-cheese whipped tirokefteri—enthralls me most. Nicely presented with a ton of warm pita bread, this is authentic Greek meze at its best.

Most Greek places also don’t hand-make the flakey, cheese-stuffed tiropitas or spinach-stuffed spanokopita. Here the phyllo flakes away, revealing fillings that are fresh and brightly seasoned. Next to picking out the cheek meat from a roasted lamb’s head, nothing will make you feel like a Peloponnesian faster than plowing through a platter of these starters.

The Fat Greek’s soups don’t miss a beat, either. The avgolemeno is a rich chicken broth that looks simple enough as it arrives, then surprises with just the right amount of shredded chicken and rice in the bottom of the bowl. It is neither too heavy nor too light on the lemon, and a version my yia yia (grandmother) would approve of.

Greek Burger

Greek Burger

They do a nice tabouli salad here, but the Village Greek salad (chopped tomatoes, cukes, onions and feta) is the one to get. Once you move to the mains, the aforementioned pasticcio and moussaka are the apotheosis of Greek casserole cookery. Each is layered macaroni studded with meat, then eggplant (in the case of moussaka) or a sinfully rich meat sauce (the pasticcio), and topped with a thick layer of savory béchamel custard. The orders run $12-$13 and one is enough for two people.

“Too much is not enough” usually defines the portion sizes in most Greek homes, and the Fat Greek follows true to form with a family-style grill plate for four (a steal at $50) featuring nicely spiced beef and lamb kebobs, lule (ground meat) kebobs and enough roast chicken to feed six.

Save room for dessert, though, because Yanni Gourmroian is a baker by trade, and his Greek and Armenian pastries put all others in town to shame. I’m crazy for his galataboureko (almost-savory semolina custard underneath a sweet, soggy roof of phyllo), and shamali (Cypriot honey-soaked cake), but one bite of his butgatcha (vanilla custard-filled, cream puff-like cake), and you’ll forget about bad baklava forever.

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2 Responses to My Big Fat Favorite Greek Food – in Las Vegas Weekly

  • Lets not forget Kokkari in San Francisco! Awesome place to eat! And does break away from the traditional stuff you see at all Greek joints.

    I think the other issue is, to make a lot of traditional Greek dishes, they take time…a lot of time. So to do it everyday fresh is impossible. Also, these dishes cannot be made for just one or two servings (i.e., pastichio, dolmalthes, etc. are by their very nature all made in bulk to feed 10-20). Thus, what happens is, either (1) the shop strips down the food to the point where the flavor/variety is all gone, or (2) the customer is eating left overs in essence because that pan of pastichio or mousaka wasn’t made that day. The good places are those that have a lot of turn over wherein the chef can cook fresh daily and throw in some interesting specials every once in a while.

    Also not to rant, but for the record, people also need to know what is and is NOT Greek food. Hummus is NOT Greek. Baba ganoush (although tasty) is NOT Greek. Belly Dancers are NOT Greek. I love Lebanese food too, but lets not get the 2 cultures confused in the endless description of “Mediterranean food”. If that was the case, what about Southern France and Italy…they share the same sea too but people don’t call Lasagna French food or ratatouille niçoise Italian cooking.

  • You’re totally f’n right Troy
    I finally made it to Fat Greek for lunch the other day. Good, friendly service and traditional Greek decor. Appetizer Octopus was tender and tasty but the Gyros didn’t cut it. Any Gyro worth it’s salt needs to be made in house! Not only does Fat Greek use a premade, processed product, they advertise it with a bright sign over the kitchen (which is in all the photos). Gyros, donairs, & Shawarmas cannot all be made with the same interchangeable prefab meat product.
    Me thinks Vegas is in need of a “Greek” restaurant. Perhaps it’s time for a permanent move south.

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