Driving back and forth on County Road 39 in Southampton recently I noticed that Meson Ole was gone, and in its place is a big sign announcing the arrival of Greek Bites Grill.
There is a Greek Bites Grill in Moriches. It is a casual, gyro and souvlaki-on-a-stick kind of place. The Greek Bites Grill in Southampton is its white-tablecloth cousin. And what a lovely cousin it is! And who better to go with than my friend Spyros, who knows his way around a Greek menu.
We arrived for lunch on a Sunday to find the parking lot filled to the brim, and a valet parker on the job. “Are you here for the party?” he asked us. No, just lunch. Upon entering we encountered a frazzled manager who told us the kitchen was currently overwhelmed and we would have to wait about 30 minutes for food. No problem, we settled in at the attractive marble bar and decided to eat there.
The interior of Greek Bites Grill is quite pretty, all white with a few bright blue accent pillows, a nice screened porch, and a few white leather banquettes.
We decided to start with the Greek Bites sampler, the octopodi, and grilled haloumi cheese. The sampler was a platter full of very good pita bread surrounded by mounds of tzatziki, a yogurt, cucumber, and garlic dip, spicy feta cheese dip, “like a Greek version of pimento cheese” offered Spyros, taramasalata, a dip made with the salted and cured roe of carp or cod, skordalia, a spread of mashed potatoes with garlic, and a roasted eggplant dip with garlic and lemon juice. All of them were delicious, especially the taramasalata, which was rich and fluffy, and the spicy feta dip, which was salty from the feta cheese and flecked with little bits of red pepper.
The octopodi (the octopus is flown in from Greece, as is most of the fish served here) was tender and smoky, dressed with capers, cherry tomatoes, grilled slices of lemon, and parsley. Haloumi cheese, traditionally made with goat and sheep’s milk, has a high melting point, so it can be fried or grilled without falling apart. The firm texture of the curds makes the cheese squeak when chewed. This version was delicious, salty with the addition of sliced black olives, cherry tomatoes, and a light dressing of balsamic vinegar and very fruity Greek olive oil.
For entrees we tried the tsipoura, a dorado fish, and the moussaka. There is a whole fish menu, with offerings grilled and served whole or boned. The tsipoura, similar to our porgy, was served with a lemony dressing, lemon potatoes, and horta, a wild green similar to chicory or Swiss chard. In this case it was ruby-stemmed Swiss chard, lightly sautéed and delicious. The fish was delicate, super fresh, split in half, and served with the head. Some people are squeamish about being served a whole fish, but I rather like poking around the crevices, finding the tender cheek meat. The lemon potatoes served with it were like nothing I’ve ever had before. Wedges of potato are marinated in a brine of lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and oregano, then roasted. The lemony zing permeates the whole potato.
The moussaka was a huge square portion of rich lamb meat and eggplant, topped with mashed potatoes and bechamel sauce. I thought it was good but Spyros insisted his homemade version was better.
It became apparent that the party going on at Greek Bites was a large church group from the Greek Orthodox church nearby. Many toasts were given, which were followed by some of the most beautiful singing we have ever heard. Hymns and Christmas songs sung in Greek were enhanced by what seemed to be the amazing acoustics of the restaurant. We seriously got goose bumps from the beauty of it.
As the other tables emptied out, the manager and owner stopped by our spot at the bar to check up on us, chat about Greek culture, religion, and food. The bartender, Kasey, was wonderful and knowledgeable about the wines and the menu. F.Y.I., some of the Greek wines served by the glass for a mere $8 were outstanding. The wine list is detailed, with an entire page of helpful Greek terms for the different grapes and their characteristics for pairing with food.
Greek Bites Grill is not inexpensive. Appetizers are $6 to $18, the grilled fish are $23 to $45 (for 2), entrees are $19 to $32, sides are $6 to $12, and desserts are $7 to $12. There is also a reasonably priced family special that feeds four to six people for $75.
For desserts we tried the rice pudding and baklava. The rice pudding was excellent, creamy with a bit of vanilla and topped with a dusting of cinnamon. The baklava was perfect and obviously very fresh. The phyllo dough layers were crisp and the honeyed walnut filling not too sweet. All desserts are made in-house.
I have always loved the simplicity of Greek food and the respect for fresh ingredients simply prepared. With a bit of lemon, garlic, and good olive oil you can do (healthy!) wonders with fish, chicken, and vegetables.
Our lunch at Greek Bites Grill was delicious from start to finish. Listening to the beautiful singing was a pleasurable bonus. So allow me to say “kalos orisate” and “kali tihi,” welcome and good luck.