A new Greek restaurant has opened in Lake Mary and shows a lot of promise. I found out about Athenian Garden Restaurant several weeks ago when walking by--the space had previously been occupied by Silvestro's which closed suddenly. We saw a new restaurant, walked in, and were immediately greeted by the owner who glady provided us with a copy of the menu. Imagine my surprise the other night when we stopped by for dinner and he remembered us from that brief encounter.
We entered and were promptly greeted and seated by our waitress. I never did catch her name, but she was an excellent server, answering all our questions and making sure all our needs were met promptly. Give this place an A+ for the great service. Our drink order was taken promptly and arrived in short order. We put in an order for an appetizer, and then spent a bit of time with the menu before ordering.
In due time our appetizer arrived--Saganaki. Saganaki is a Greek cheese that is fried, but the presentation is part of the story. It's brought to the table still sizzling, then a brandy is poured over it an lit. Nice! Finally, the flames are doused with fresh lemon juice. Quite the presentation. But on top of the presentation is the taste. Tommy likened it to the bits of cheese in macaroni and cheese that are caramelize--and usually fought over. This is a very rich dish, but we did manage to clean it up. Yumm, it was very good. It was Tommy's first time having saganaki and he liked it--a lot!
I ordered a side salad, and that arrived in due time as well. It was nice and fresh, topped with a bit of onion, some Greek cheese (yummy, but quite strong), a slice of cucumber, a bit of tomato, a small pepperocini, a kalamata olive, and dusted with some oregano. The dressing was an oregano oil and vinegar. It was a good salad, nice and refreshing and an ample portion to boot.
Again in due time (meaning promptly but not too soon) our main courses arrived. I had the Aegean Chicken. Talk about spot-on flavor. This was a large baked chicken breast that was stuffed with spinach, feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, scallions, and mushrooms. It was baked in a garlic wine sauce, then topped with a blend of cheese that were melted. Overall, the taste was excellent. However, there was one down side--the chicken itself was unbelievably tough. Oh, it was a huge portion, but i felt like I was eating an old rooster. The chicken was stringy and hard to cut and hard to chew. However, this was offset by the absolutely delicious flavors that accompanied it. I thougth that perhpas with a such a large ingredient list it would be somewhat a potpourris of indiscernable flavors, but it was not. I loved the dish (minus the tough chicken). It was a huge portion and I had lots to take home. The dish was served with a side of rice pilaf (ordinary, but good) and some excellent fasolakis (green beans that were sauteed with tomatoes, butter, and lots of other good things). Usually I am not a big fan of overcooked green beans, but these were truly excellent and I enjoyed them a lot. Aside from the tough chicken, this was a good meal. Next time I'll ask about the tenderness of the chicken before I order another chicken dish here.
My friend Tommy had the Athenian Combo, a choice of three entreess and two sides. He chose the Pastitio, Mousaka, and Dolomadkia. He was least crazy about the Dolomadkia--grape leaves stuffed with rice and beef. The Pastitsio was pretty good--layers of Greek macaroni and meat sauce topped with a bechamel. The Mousaka was good, too--layers of baked potatoes, eggplant, and meat sauce topped with bechamel. His one complaint was the nutmeg which seasoned both the Mousaka and the Pastitsio--it was a bit much, he thought. Still the food was pretty good. When we had leftovers the next day, he commented that the nutmeg seemed a little bit less prounounced. His meal was served with the fasolakia (green beans) and with roasted potatoes which he said were absolutely wonderful--nice and tender and creamy, maybe the best potatoes he ever had, in fact!
As I mentioned, the portions were large and we had two full meals worth of leftovers--and we did enjoy them a lot the next day. We had a very good meal with excellent service. A few missteps here and there (tough chicken and maybe a bit too much nutmeg). But we both agreed that in general we liked our meal and would go back for more another time, maybe with different choices!