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'Burb Burps: Evvia Estiatorio

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Evvia -- sister to Kokkari in San Francisco -- is one of our favorite of the favorites down here. Evvia serves wonderfully classic Greek fare along with dishes they describe as "local interpretations of many traditional Hellenic favorites." Because of a minor kitchen fire, Evvia had to close for a few weeks this fall and my husband and I were clutching our stomachs in fear that they would never reopen. Lucky for us and for Palo Alto, they did.

For us, It's all about the octopus. I mean, I suppose you COULD order the succulent lamb chops, or the piping hot gigantes beans with herbed feta, or even the eggplant and artichoke saganaki with the huge drift of Greek yogurt that needs to be spread over everything I eat for the rest of my life. But really, Evvia is all about the octopus.

On the menu, it's listed as "Octapadaki tou Yiorgou" and described as "traditional grilled octopus with lemon, oregano, and olive oil." Like the best things in life, this dish is simple. No foam, no gelees, no essences of boiled-down essences. All it takes is four ingredients -- five, really, if you count the wood fire grill needed to edge the chopped cephalopod with charred, smoky goodness -- for that dish to wend its tentacled way into my hungry, waking moments.

Though normally quite generous with one another when it comes to food, my husband and I now have to put in a double order, because where Evvia's octopus is concerned, we're way too greedy to share a single.


Of course, as much as we'd like to, diner can not live on octopus alone, and we do have other standard favorites at Evvia. The gigantes beans are the legume equivalent of a hot bath. Simmered in a rich marinara sauce with molten feta and oregano oil, Evvia's beans keep me from missing my favorite wood-baked beans at Nopa. They're definitely a must-order for us. When tomatoes are in season the Horiatiki salad is another winner. Crisp and refreshing with shavings of sweet purple onion, dusky olives, cucumber chunks, and salty squares of feta, it's the best classic Greek salad I've ever had.

For me, eating Greek almost always means that the meal is incomplete without lamb of some sort. Evvia's simple lamb chops are perfectly cooked and served with a lemon half and crackly, roasted potatoes. They're lovely. I've also become very fond of the loukanika -- plump lengths of mesquite-grilled lamb sausage -- which beg to be dragged through their cucumber-yogurt side sauce.

In a way, it's unfortunate that we have such firm favorites, because while Evvia has so many other things I'd like to try, I'm not willing to sacrifice one of our usuals to do so. Maybe some day we'll have a large enough party that we'll have to order more food and then I'll finally get to try the moussaka with yogurt béchamel. Or the braised goat with tomatoes and orzo. Oooh, or the egg-lemon soup!

You now, it was really quite stupid of me to write this post on an empty stomach because I'm putting all my dinner plans back in the fridge, and we're getting Evvia in.

Evvia Estiatorio
420 Emerson Street (at Lytton)
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Monday-Thurday: 11:30am-2:00pm (lunch)
Monday-Thursday: 5:30pm-10:00pm (dinner)
Friday: 5:30pm-11:00pm (dinner)
Saturday: 5:00pm-11:00pm (dinner)
Sunday: 5:00pm-9:00pm (dinner)

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