Saturday, October 01, 2005

Alexis' Greek Restaurant

Cullen and I dipped into our Entertainment coupon book last night and decided to go to Alexis' Greek Restaurant in Northridge for dinner. I love the Entertainment book. Cullen buys one from a co-worker’s kid every year, and it’s full of half-off and buy one get one free coupons. There are some really great places with capons in there! In fact, we’ve discovered some of our favorite Valley and LA dining spots by being adventurous with our book.

Well, last night, armed with our “buy one entrée and get the other free, OR save 50% on the Greek Feast” coupon and the advice of a helpful Chowhound we boldly braved the sorta-smoke- from-the-fire air in Northridge and went to Alexis'. Located in mini-mall just south of the Northridge Mall on Tampa blvd, Alexis' has been serving Greek food up to the masses for over 30 years. Online, the menu looks almost like a mirror image of Sherman oaks' The Great Greek. On getting to Alexis', one discoveres that the ambiance and food are not what the location nor the online menu would have one expect. There is a quite lovely outside patio enhanced with nice sparkly white light. Inside is box, but the tables are well adorned and comfortable. Decoration is on the classier side. I was pleasantly pleased.

The place was pretty full at 7:00, which I usually find to be a good sign. Fatima, one of the owners, was manning the hostess booth, and lead us to a table with style and grace few hostesses have these days. Her classiness and great attitude strike you as soon as you come in. She greeted everyone coming through the door as an intimate friend, and made several stops to talk to customers as she led us back.

Since Cullen is a beer nerd, we figured we’d start the evening by splitting a Portuguese beer he’d never seen before. That way, we could try the beer for novelty’s sake, and still not have to worry about our bottle of Syrah putting us over the “comfortably buzzed” level. The beer was called “Super Bock”, and I’m afraid it lived up to neither. It tasted like Miller Lite. I could chug one after mowing a lawn in August, but otherwise…eh.

Then again, bad beer does not a bad establishment make.

We started with the Htapodi, a plate of charbroiled baby octopus with spring onions and vinaigrette. It was superb! Tender, flavorful, and not too oily. It isn’t every cook who can do octopus and not end up with rubber, but Fatima’s definitely a “pulpo master”.

The waiter opened our afore-mentioned wine, the 2002 Daume Syrah. Daume is a local boutique winery, and has some amazing wines at a great price. I am a particular fan of the sangiovese, but the syrah is pretty smashing. Corkage at Alexis is steep, $15, and I would hope Fatima would see fit to lowering it. Still, it costs less than many of the wines she serves, and I knew the Syrah would be a good match for Greek. No real complaints here. In fact, Fatima saw we were wine people, and brought us a taste of a very hard to find Portuguese wine. A “taste” consisted of a glassful. Upon sampling it, I realized why the Portuguese beer had been so bleh. They’re too busy making wine!

For our main course, Cullen ordered the Pasticio, a deep dish of pasta layered with ground sirloin, spices, three cheeses and béchamel. I wondered why he would order lasagna at a Greek place, but as he gets touchy sometimes, I kept my mouth shut and gave him the benefit of the doubt. I decided to be extremely virtuous, and ordered the Roasted Vegetarian salad, with roasted red and yellow peppers, eggplant, zucchini., feta, tomatoes, black olives, and fresh basil and greens. We also ordered a side of the three-appetizer dip sampler, choosing hummus, eggplant and Taramosalata, described as”red caviar”. We paid extra to order the $150 fluffy Greek-style pita, rather than face the thin complimentary stuff. I like my pita chewy.

Cullen’s Pasticio looked exactly like lasagna, and it came with a side of potatoes and veggies. However, the spices are very different (he granted me a taste, nyah), and it was a very rich and delicious dish. The salad was a composed salad, which is not always easy to find in LA County, especially this side of the Valley. I am happy to report that the veggies were not too oily or overcooked to mush, as many people do. Sometimes it seems like chefs use eggplant as an oil transportation device. Not Fatima. It was PERFECT. The three dips were fabulous. Again, not too much oil, but rich and delicious. I really enjoyed the Taramosalata; it had the right mix of tang and garlic bite, although it didn’t seem like caviar at all.

Although helpings didn’t look huge, we sure were full at the end. Fatima’s desserts are all home made from her own recipes, but we were too full to even taste. Next time maybe.

A coupon well used, I’d say!

Alexis' Greek Cafe is located at 9034 Tampa Ave, Northridge California. 91324
818-349-9689 Fax/ 818-349-5114 Email:

Thursday, September 29, 2005

My dog is some sort of celebrity.

I’m not entirely sure how this works. Suffice it to say I can’t walk him down the street without being stopped over and over. He’s cute, I’ll give him that. There’s something about a big, wrinkly, slobbery grinning dog that just screams, “love me, pet me, worship me. Right now,” especially to women everywhere, and doubly especially to uuper-dooper cute young ladies. Not that this helps me any. I don’t swing that way. But my fiancée seems to enjoy it.

I am not sure how that works, though. Here comes a beast known by the nickname “Slushmug”, who snores and passes more gas than a cow bent on ecological destruction. He has a huge head that splits open when he’s grinning, which he does often. He’s hairy, chubby, and drooly. Somehow, ladies get a subconscious urge to run up and melt over him. Now if he were, say, a man and not a dog, I have trouble seeing the same women wanting to stop, coo, and rub his tummy. They’d probably cross the street, or just save time and go for a quick restraining order.

But no, Halsey is a dog, which means he is just the cutest drool factory around. I can see it. I’m his owner; I really do think he’s adorable. I’m just amazed at how many other people do.

Here’s the rub, though. Everyone who goes gaga on over him remembers him. Forever. By name. There are chic stores and boutiques in LA where a lurch trough the door is always greeted with “HAAAAALLLLLLLSSSEEEEEEYYYYYY! You’re back! Look, everyone, it’s Halsey! How are you?” and a rush of admiring clerks. People on the street remember him. Everyone in the neighborhood, and by that I mean the San Fernando Valley and parts of Century City, knows the dog by name. They have no clue who I am, however. I’m just that person at the other end of the leash. My sole purpose seems to have become as a sort of dog docent; I answer questions. Usually the same ones over and over.

I swear, I’m going to get a t-shirt printed up:

You may pet my dog.

He’s a boy.

He’s a bulldog.

65 pounds.

His name is Halsey (as if they didn’t already know).

He does snore.

Not more than any other dog his size.

No, he doesn’t bite.

Yes, he’s fixed, and no, he doesn’t seem to notice. He can’t reach back there to see.

I don’t really mind it all, I just wish someone would perhaps slip a little question about me in there. I like to talk to people, too!

A walk that might take anyone not blessed with such a chick-magnet dog say, half an hour, could take me twice to three times that due totally to adoring fans. Then again, he’s not one of those stuck-up celebrities, like Shaquille O’Neal (who once was so desperate to ignore me, he stared over my head at a wall for 10 minutes. This was not difficult.). Halsey is thrilled to meet anyone. He’s perfectly happy to grin, kiss, or drool on anyone, no matter who they are. He even poses for pictures. If he can, he’ll autograph their clothes with slobber. Trust me, it never fully washes out.

Perhaps I shouldn’t complain. I mean, he makes time for me. Usually.