Until Petros in Manhattan Beach blew onto the scene a few years ago, Greek restaurants in L.A. tended to be more in the folkloric vein, places like Taverna Tony in Malibu or Papa Cristos in L.A., where you could shop for Greek groceries and stay for an inexpensive dinner at communal tables. Now here comes something entirely different — big, brash, glamorous Xandros on La Cienega's restaurant row.
Moving into the old Tony Roma's, Xandros (short for Alexander the Great) fills the 7,500-square-foot space with a sleek lounge washed in blue light, a dining room with pale yellow orchids on the tables and beyond that, a spacious outdoor terrace protected from the wind and the traffic on La Cienega by a glass screen.
Restaurateur Adam Kariotoglou has given Xandros all the trappings of a restaurant-lounge, including a private curtained area, evocative candlelight and servers in coy, Greek-themed costumes. Sitting out on the terrace, it feels like the deck of a luxury ship moving against the traffic, steaming toward Santorini or Mykonos.
If you have much experience in the restaurant-lounge genre, you wouldn't necessarily expect the food to be worth mentioning. Here, however, it is, and it's a surprise.
Dishes are all meant to be shared family style, and you better be fast. The skordalia (potatoes and garlic) dip or the smoky taramasalata disappears in a flash. That's OK — it's quick enough to order another of the dips served in bowls with triangles of warm pita bread.
The kitchen under the direction of Dimitri Mavrogiannis makes its own filo dough, shown to advantage in the flaky spanakopita filled with spinach and feta. A large octopus tentacle arrives coiled on the plate in all its glory, along with whole calamari, baby potatoes, green beans and grilled pickled onions in a cuttlefish ink vinaigrette.
Rabbit in a rustic stew is a bit dried out, but the sauce is wonderful, with more pita to soak it up. Moist lamb and beef meatballs come with a little feta crumbled over the top. Moussaka is excellent too and rather elegant. The kitchen takes advantage of local and organic ingredients, which is a plus.
The menu is so extensive you can barely dip into it on one visit. Saving for a next visit: sea urchin drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice and capers; whole striped bass on the grill; fisherman's seafood soup; and braised lamb shank.
For dessert, pass up the soggy baklava in favor of a trio of Greek fritters, each with its own syrup.
Xandros' prices go from moderate to expensive. If you don't go crazy, you probably won't end up spending much more than you would at Lawry's next door. And on certain nights, dancing adds a frantic festive note.
Hey, restaurant row could use a little more fun.
Xandros Greek Restaurant
Where: 50 N. La Cienega Drive, Beverly Hills
When: Open daily 4 p.m to 2 a.m.; dinner served 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 5 p.m. to midnight Fridays, 4 p.m. to midnight Saturdays, 4 to 10 p.m. Sundays. Bar menu 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Happy hour 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Prices: Appetizers, $5 to $18; soups, $7 to $11; salads, $10 to $15; baked dishes, $20 to $28; meat dishes, $26 to $42; desserts, $8.
Information: (310) 854-1001; http://www.xandrosgreekrestaurant.com.