Keen on the Aegean

If cuisine continues as fresh and genuine, he should have years to translate "Greek salad" into ensalada griega. Diners of all nationalities have already discovered that the sfirida ala spetchoita, a meaty, flaky slice of red snapper baked with tomato sauce, white wine, and herbs, is a bargain, as is most everything on the menu. Servings are generous, with boiled, garlic-and-lemon-flavored potatoes on the side.

Also prepared with garlic, roasted to mellow some of its harsher tendencies, are rare slices of spring lamb. And if a diner remarks about its perfection, he's liable to reply that his people have always eaten lamb, and plenty of it A so they ought to know how to cook it right. He certainly does.

But what remains my favorite is the item we ate constantly in Greece. Our days commonly began with a late-morning meal of crusty bread and creamy tzatziki, a dip made of yogurt, cucumber, and garlic. It's difficult to find good tzatziki in the States; the yogurt tends to be too thin and runny. Heavy, drained Greek yogurt is best, and just a dash of vinegar. Stavrinos adds dill to his version, sparking it with the taste of spring, and olive oil, an ingredient that garnishes almost every dish.

Diners, particularly those with sensitive digestions, should be aware that liberal amounts of olive oil are used in Greek cookery, thanks to Athens's prowess in pressing the fruit. In delicate dishes A such as the fresh swordfish shish kebab A a light flavor of oil, from first pressings, is often employed. For meatier dishes, including the marinated lamb chops and the pastitsio (thick spaghetti and ground beef au gratin), an oil with a darker, sweeter flavor is preferred. But it's always one of the two.

The other truly marvelous dish at Vakhos is the spanakopita, or spinach pie. Light phyllo dough gently ensconces boiled spinach mixed with butter and feta cheese. The pastry is then baked until crisp. In Greece, my husband and I were surprised to discover that different islands had various indigenous specialties. For instance, spinach and chicken pies were road-stand delicacies in Corfu, but there was no sign of them in Santorini. The same was true for gyros, or souvlaki in pita (which seem more common in America than they did in Greece). In hindsight, though, it was naive to expect that each of these geographically separated islands should have the same cuisine.

As always, dessert is an important decision. At Vakhos the question isn't what to order A the choice is between two types of pastry in a thin, heated honey syrup: baklava and an astoundingly delicate galakto bourico A it's how many. On our second visit, my husband had his dessert twice, for which I can't fault him. I wanted my whole meal again.

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