It wasn't until Inotheke* came around that we realized how much Santa Monica needed a modern, upscale Greek restaurant. Ok, so maybe that isn't the same kind of need as those of us who are helplessly addicted to caffeine feel every morning, but its nonetheless a cuisine in which Santa Monica was seriously lacking. In general, when many of us think of Greek and Mediterranean food, we think little hole-in-the-wall spots to get a hearty lunch during work. But rarely do we think of well-composed dishes with Mediterranean flare paired with an extensive wine list in a minimal-modern setting. Sitting at the bottom of an upscale apartment building on Broadway in Santa Monica, Inotheke bills itself as a neighborhood joint to casually stroll into, and relax with a glass of wine and a smattering of small plates. But don't underestimate this spot; owner Carolos Tomazos (born in Cyrpus) has worked with Chef Alain Ducasse and has been part of the management teams at The French Laundry, Per Se, and Waterloo & City (before its recent closure). He wanted to bring his hometown cuisine to LA, and has done so with thoughtful, modern presentations.
The menu has a little something for everyone, with classic Greek dishes, salads, and plenty of protein, all in small plate form. We found the prices to be really reasonable and the portions to be perfect for sharing.
(As we get into the food, I thought I should share that this dinner took place while I was fighting off a stomach bug. While Kyle did the heavy lifting on eating (thanks bae!), I made sure to try everything and will have to come back when I'm feeling better.)
We started off with the Lakerda, which was a cured ahi tuna with a little herb salad on top. This was a really nice start. While the dish didn't really scream "Greek!" to me, it was really fresh and light. The ahi tuna was a little bit salty, but the fresh, acidic salad helped to dispel the saltiness.
I love a good eggplant dish, and this "eggplant tahini" was really good. The eggplant was rich and creamy, and I loved the sharp, acidic bites of onion and tomato. The grilled bread was really delicious as well.
Up next was another light fish dish in the form of octopus. The octopus was cut thin and cooked really well-- it wasn't overly chewy or tough. It was really bright and flavorful.
Next up, we got the cod fritters. They were really a bit more of a fish cake than fritters, but they were still a bit crispy on the outside and really tender on the inside. They were really flavorful but not too fishy, and to me, exemplified the modern-meets-Greek cuisine.
By far our favorite dish of the night, the Lamb & Orzo was to die for. The orzo was fluffy, and surprisingly rich with the tomato-y parmesan flavor. The lamb was super tender and flavorful, and this managed to be a really impactful dish without being too heavy. We would easily come back for this! It's no wonder this is their most popular dish.
Up next were pork meatballs; usually, when we think pork meatballs, we think heavy. With the tart lemon sauce and refreshing dill, the tender little pork meatballs were anything but. They were a really fun and delicious addition to the meal.
Though a short rib dish in a Greek restaurant seems a bit like a crowd pleaser for those patrons who are less adventurous, I really didn't mind once I dug in. Definitely a classic take on short ribs, they were really tender and flavorful, but still had a Greek flare. Maybe it was just the spices or the sauce, but we can definitely see the Mediterranean influence, and we loved it.
There isn't a permanent dessert menu, but on the night we went, they were offering a Filo dough dessert with a creamy custard center, honey, and pistachios. The filo dough on the outside was actually quite soft, which I thought would be a problem, but actually worked well with the creamy custard and crunchy pistachios. It's not a typically sweet dessert, with a little sweetness provided by the cream and honey. Admittedly, I only had a little (stomach bug), but Kyle devoured the whole thing. I think he loved it.
Overall, we really enjoyed our night at Inotheke. The service was friendly, the atmosphere was a nice combination of upscale and casual, and the food was delicious. And an avid Mediterranean food lover, I really enjoyed the modern and contemporary takes on classic Greek flavors in a cool Santa Monica setting. We would highly recommend checking out Inotheke as a great place to go for a casual group dinner.
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