Thursday, August 5, 2010
The Buckhead Life Group has a summer tradition unlike any other restaurant group in town, it's called the Dine Around program, and it is quite possibly the smartest way I have ever seen to fill traditionally empty restaurant seats during the slow summer months. They mail out something like 100,000 $20 gift cards to the different restaurants in the group, valid for only the month stated and the restaurant listed. Then when you use it the first time (this year they allowed multiple uses) you are given another card for the next month at a different spot. My July card was for Kyma, not that I need an excuse to visit one of my favorite restaurants, and my August card is for Chops Lobster Bar.
On my most recent visit, I brought my friend Kristi, http://hurtsmyteeth.tumblr.com/, who had never been before. Naturally I had to order as many meze as possible so she could try all of my favorites. Our first bite was a little taste from the chef, Pano Karatossos, a zucchini fritter. Bite sized, fresh-from-the-garden sweet, and not at all greasy, it was served on their htipiti roasted red pepper spread.
It is not possible for me to visit Kyma and not get a few of their spreads. The tzatziki is the best I've ever had, made with such rich Greek yogurt you would swear it was sour cream, full of cucumber and bright lemon. The skordalia is pureed potato, more lemon, and garlic, garlic, garlic. Is is so smooth and creamy I could happily eat it with a spoon, but no need to do that when they give you plenty of wedges of their grilled pita. They garnish their dips with good strong cured olives that I could eat by the dozen.
Next we had the cheese saganaki, they also offer a shrimp version, which is good, but I was craving oozy melted cheese. It's kefalograviera cheese that is pan fried and finished with barbayanni ouzo and more lemon to cut the cheese's natural saltiness. It's not melted like the mozzarella that strings off your pizza, it's a firmer cheese like feta, so it holds up to pan frying, but still has a gorgeous soft-chewy texture. You are better off eating it the second it gets to your table as it sets up again pretty quickly.
Kyma also does a fantastic job with grilled meats, which you can order by the piece. They let the flavor of the wood smoke and the meats shine through, only dressing lightly with oregano, olive oil, or perhaps a spray of lemon. I am a long time fan of their lamb chops, but this time decided to give the pork ribs a try, mostly because I was intrigued by the idea of the coriander yogurt served on the side. I actually would have preferred a bit more coriander, as there is no such thing as too much coriander in my opinion, but the ribs were stellar, tender, crispy, supremely flavorful. They are also served with those golden discs of perfection, the Greek fries. They are shatteringly crisp on the outside and creamy in the middle, one of the best examples of fried potato in the city. A word of warning, eat them fast, they don't hold well.
Quite possibly the best known dish at Kyma is the Grilled Octopus. This is the stuff of legends. There are several incarnations on the menu, including the calamari filet, but go for the grilled octopus. It is served with a pickled red onion salad dressed with red wine vinaigrette, but the cephalopod is the star of the show. The tentacles are grilled and have the most divine meaty texture, slightly chewy-crisp at the edges from the fire. These are not the fried rubber bands you are used to eating.
One of the specials on the night we went was a scallop dish, 5 perfectly cooked incredibly sweet scallops, served over a fava bean and mushroom mixture and bathed with manna from heaven, also known as lobster-yogurt emulsion. It was like the very essence of lobster and lighter than air, but so intensely flavorful, you wanted to lick your plate clean. If this were a slightly less posh restaurant, I'm pretty sure I would have.
For dessert, there are the typical Greek pastries, the bakalavas, and other nut filled, flaky phyllo-based things. However, I adore the loukoumades, fried globs of dough, somewhat similar in texture to a beignet. It's not the dough that's amazing, it's the honey that they are covered with, imported from Greece, it is rich and strong and delicious. It's the honey that makes you understand why Napoleon wanted to be entombed in it, it might even make you want that for yourself. I can never resist biting into them the moment they are delivered, but consider the 3rd degree burns on the roof of my mouth an acceptable consequence.
Kyma also has some of the most flawless service in the city, with perhaps the exception of the hostess desk. I would really prefer not to stand around awkwardly waiting for my dining companion to arrive, nor do I want to take a seat at the bar, when I have no desire to order a beverage. It would be nice to be greeted, then seated at a table where you don't feel so conspicuous as you wait. Plus if you are seated at your table immediately, you will have more time to peruse the menu and enjoy the company of your waiter. If you are lucky enough to get Cory, you need those extra minutes, because not only is he charming and personable with great menu knowledge, but he is also very easy on the eyes. Next time you go, be sure and ask for him, you'll see what I mean.