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Santorini for lunch: good food, sketchy service

Santorini for lunch: good food, sketchy service
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  • Santorini for lunch: good food, sketchy service

    Post #1 - December 9th, 2006, 6:07 pm
    Post #1 - December 9th, 2006, 6:07 pm Post #1 - December 9th, 2006, 6:07 pm
    We were 3 for lunch on Friday. Had made a reservation and were seated promptly. Also prompt were water, bread, and menus. The table was pre-set with a nice bottle of unfiltered olive oil with which I happily dressed some of the warm, fresh bread. (I know that there are those, the sainted Marcella Hazan among them, as I recall who deplore that restaurants encourage the practice of dunking bread in oil. Personally, I love some good warm bread releasing the aroma of good oil, with perhaps a pinch of salt.)

    We were taking some time with the menus, discussing, perusing; one of us was vegetarian, and we also had actual business matters on our minds as well. So, we had to ask the waiter for more time when he first arrived to take our order. This apparently plunged us into slow table purgatory because it was very difficult to get him back when we were ready for him.

    Apps.
    Saganaki -- eh. This dish doesn't really move me and the one here was neither better nor worse than any I've had. The cheese itself really didn't seem to have much flavor of its own, nor did the sauce.

    Wood grilled calamari: very good. Toothsome, tender, nice bit of char, nice sauce to mop up with bread.

    Main dishes
    The vegetarian had a salad and noodles with cheese, which she liked but didn't love.
    The third member of the party had the pork chop and liked it very much.
    I had the grouper which was perfectly done, very moist, and a generous portion.
    My sides were lyonaise potatos -- luscious, and the braised green beans.
    (Here we had some confusion: I would absolutely swear that the menu described the item "fasolakia" as "braised greens," not "green beans." I ordered the "braised greens" and the waiter asked, "green beans?" And I said, "no, the fasolakia." And pointed to the menu. He wrote it down, and, of course, brought green beans. I was nonplussed, but happy enough with green beans and so I didn't pursue the matter. Having since checked on it, I know that fasolakia are indeed green beans, so either menu has a misprint, or I had a small stroke on Friday afternoon.)

    Both when it came time for dessert, and afterward when we wanted to pay the check (which had been dropped at the table) it was extremely difficult to find the waiter. To pay, we finally had to just walk the check over to the host stand. The busboys, it must be said, were completely on top of it, removing plates, brushing crumbs, and refilling water and coffee with alacrity and suavity.

    I would love to go with a larger group and taste more, but for the price, I would also like a step up in service.
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #2 - December 9th, 2006, 11:34 pm
    Post #2 - December 9th, 2006, 11:34 pm Post #2 - December 9th, 2006, 11:34 pm
    FYI
    Fassolakia = Green Beans
    Horta = Greens (Dandelions in the case of most Greeks)
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #3 - December 10th, 2006, 1:30 pm
    Post #3 - December 10th, 2006, 1:30 pm Post #3 - December 10th, 2006, 1:30 pm
    stevez wrote:FYI
    Fassolakia = Green Beans
    Horta = Greens (Dandelions in the case of most Greeks)


    Adding to that:
    Fassolaka is usually green beans served with a tomato sauce.

    For something more authentic, try Costa's.

    Also, if you really want good service, try to learn to speak Greek. It makes a big difference. In the alternative, do what I did -- marry into the culture. When your wife is having a lengthy discussion with the staff of the virtues of the olives grown at her mother's place in Crete, the servers tend to pay more attention to the table.
  • Post #4 - December 10th, 2006, 8:10 pm
    Post #4 - December 10th, 2006, 8:10 pm Post #4 - December 10th, 2006, 8:10 pm
    DML wrote:Also, if you really want good service, try to learn to speak Greek. It makes a big difference. In the alternative, do what I did -- marry into the culture. When your wife is having a lengthy discussion with the staff of the virtues of the olives grown at her mother's place in Crete, the servers tend to pay more attention to the table.


    Learn the language and marry a national. Is that all you have to do to get good service? :lol:
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #5 - December 10th, 2006, 8:21 pm
    Post #5 - December 10th, 2006, 8:21 pm Post #5 - December 10th, 2006, 8:21 pm
    David Hammond wrote:
    DML wrote:Also, if you really want good service, try to learn to speak Greek. It makes a big difference. In the alternative, do what I did -- marry into the culture. When your wife is having a lengthy discussion with the staff of the virtues of the olives grown at her mother's place in Crete, the servers tend to pay more attention to the table.


    Learn the language and marry a national. Is that all you have to do to get good service? :lol:


    It sounded reasonable to me, especially since on top of some good Greek food, I got a beautiful wife out of it. And twins on the way. What a deal. The downside is that I may not enter Tru or Alinea for a while. It is hard to get out when you have twins (due in February/March) and a Germ. Shep. at home. It makes it a challenge to hire a babysitter.

    The irony is that before I started dating my wife, I really didn't like Greek food. It is amazing what happens when you have great home-cooked Greek food. It opened doors as to the possibilities of the cooking.

    On a somewhat related note, in order to keep both myself and my wife's family happy, I've stumbled into some very good Greek wines. The quality of Greek wine has dramatically improved over the past five years or so. It is becoming a nice place for some values.
  • Post #6 - December 10th, 2006, 9:09 pm
    Post #6 - December 10th, 2006, 9:09 pm Post #6 - December 10th, 2006, 9:09 pm
    DML wrote:The irony is that before I started dating my wife, I really didn't like Greek food. It is amazing what happens when you have great home-cooked Greek food. It opened doors as to the possibilities of the cooking.


    I've got to agree with you. I'm in the exact same situation. Once I started living my own personal "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" experience, I really learned to love Greek food. Those Aunts and Ya-Ya's really know how to cook!
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #7 - September 1st, 2010, 2:44 pm
    Post #7 - September 1st, 2010, 2:44 pm Post #7 - September 1st, 2010, 2:44 pm
    Went with my department for lunch today. Haven't been there in quite a while. I joined late, so I can't comment on the entire meal.
    Service was good; plates cleared, waters refilled without wait or asking.
    I ordered a couple of apps. after everyone else's lunch orders were in, but they managed to get things out almost all together for us.
    Skordalia was the garlicy cloud that it should be. Intense and fragrant but not sharp.
    Fried calamari was very nicely done---lightly, evenly battered, tender and golden, generously portioned.
    Grilled calamari (appetizer portion) was perfectly balanced between tender and chewy as well as just a hint of char without sootiness. Lovely lemony olive oil dressing, and judicious herbage. Also generously portioned.
    Breadwas fresh and chewy and just the right texture to absorb and stand up to various sauces.
    Cappucino was OK. Well foamed but served in a smallish, standard restaurant coffee cup and not particularly flavorful coffee-wise.
    Items I didn't try but which others enjoyed and which looked and smelled very good to me were chicken in some sort of special "Santorini" sauce (red), and grouper also in a "Santorini" sauce, but white. Also fried eggplant in a tomato sauce.
    The big miss was maybe the simplest item, my broiled mushroom appetizer.
    The menu said (or at least this is what thought I read), that they were broiled and served on a skewer. They arrived not en brochette, but sitting, face up on a plate. They were well nice looking, largish standard white mushrooms, but as I popped the first one into my mouth I thought I had just eaten a lump of charcoal from the bottom of the grill or a recently incinerated pad of paper. Flipping over the remaining shrooms one by one, I discovered that the bottom of each was completely blackened.
    This confused me on a number of fronts: A) most obviously, who would let this out of the kitchen? It's hard not to know when you've completely burned something in a broiler, and it's not hard to quickly re-do a skewer of mushrooms, (4 min. maybe?) but, B) if they were cooked on a skewer, how did bottoms all get blackened? You would expect the skewer to pass through the cented and then turned, so that if you forgot about them, one side would get burned, not the entire bottom face. Also, I didnt' see any evidence of skewer holes in them, so I wonder how they were cooked at all. In a pan?
    I decided that when the waiter returned to check I would let him know because they were truly inedible. But he never returned, and the various servers and busers who brought additional drinks and cleared plates never asked. If it was just me, or me and the Ms., I'd have hailed someone and sent it back, but as I was being treated, and was already a bit out of sync with the party, I decided to just let it go rather than find myself eating mushrooms as everyone else finished up dessert.
    Not tragic, but rather a disappointment for a well established joint like Santorini.
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #8 - September 20th, 2010, 9:28 am
    Post #8 - September 20th, 2010, 9:28 am Post #8 - September 20th, 2010, 9:28 am
    For her birthday, my mother wanted Greek food, but not Parthenon. (Apparently she hadn't been pleased with the food at the Parthenon the last couple of visits.) My one visit to Santorini had been pleasant and I knew I had read good things here.

    Overall, it was a mixed bag. Service was efficient all night. Our table of eight shared taramosolata, tzatziki and saganaki to start. The weakest of the appetizers was the saganaki -- the cheese was tough after cooking. It also seemed a lot greasier than I remember but I don't eat it that often. We also shared a large Athenian salad, which was plentiful but had miserable tomatoes on it.

    For entrees, Mom had the lamb artichokes. She complained about the artichoke having too much choke left on it and about the cut of lamb (looked like a shank) used. Besides these issues, she did seem to enjoy her dish -- the bite I had was extremely flavorful. I had the Greek Baccalao, a pan-fried fish served with their own garlic sauce (aka, skordalia.) For a restaurant that supposedly specializes in seafood, this preparation wasn't great. The breading was tough and didn't go well with the skordalia. The fish itself was okay. The skordalia was appropriately garlickly. My brother had the young barbecue lamb special. I was able to sneak a couple of bites and it was a winner. Other members of our party had the Chicken Santorini, the combo plate (1/4 Chicken Santorini served with small portions of Spinach Pie, Moussaka, Dolmades and Rice Pilaf), chicken kebob and the grilled chicken breast. They all said their food was good My gyros-seeking niece was surprised to find a Greek restaurant without gyros. She had pita bread. :roll:

    I like the space and some of the dishes work. I'm not sure if Santorini would be my first choice in Greektown, but it's definitely a decent option.
    -Mary
  • Post #9 - January 31st, 2011, 1:55 pm
    Post #9 - January 31st, 2011, 1:55 pm Post #9 - January 31st, 2011, 1:55 pm
    I've been to Greek Islands probably 10 times, and for the most part I've been pretty happy with it. I'd read a handful of positive reviews of Santorini and SteveZ mentioned that GI and Santorini are owned by the same people, so I thought I'd give Santorini a shot.

    The meal got off on the wrong foot because the olive oil on the table was slightly rancid. A bad omen of the meal to come.

    We started off with quite a few appetizers, since those are what I like most at Greek restaurants. The fried zucchini and eggplant were probably the highlights of the meal. I liked the light and crispy breading, though I prefer the thin slices at GI to the large strips of zucchini served at Santorini. The eggplant was fried nicely, but covered in a lot of tomato sauce making much of it soggy rather than crispy.

    On the other hand, I didn't care for the seafood appetizers at all. The taramosalata completely lacked the flavor of roe that is critical to the dish. As far as we could tell it was a garlic spread with pink food coloring. It wasn't offensive, but it was a significant step down from the taramosalata I've had at Greek Islands. Then came the octopus. I order this on every trip I take to GI, and I've never been disappointed. I'm pretty sure that Santorini served us reheated octopus because it was stringy, rubbery and drowning in oil. The characteristic char was present, but the texture couldn't have been further from what I was hoping for. This was a huge let down to say the least.

    To round out the meal we ordered the whole black bass. It's a fairly large fish, but it was waaay overcooked. Each bite was tragically dry and flavorless. Even the cheeks (usually the most tender part) were cooked to a crisp, something I'd never seen before. To add insult to injury, the whole fish costs 50 dollars. Imagine ordering a 50 dollar steak and getting it cooked well done when you ordered medium rare. So yeah, we were pretty aggravated.

    Looking back on it, we didn't order anything that isn't on the menu at Greek Islands. Perhaps I should have stuck with my old standby, or perhaps we ordered wrong. Either way, when a perfectly good option is right across the street, I'm not sure I'll ever go to Santorini again. What Greektown lacks in inspiration it makes up for in good prices and consistency. Santorini may have had an off night on this particular occasion, but any seafood restaurant capable of serving such poor seafood is a restaurant I'll be loath to try again.
  • Post #10 - February 1st, 2011, 9:53 am
    Post #10 - February 1st, 2011, 9:53 am Post #10 - February 1st, 2011, 9:53 am
    Have to agree. A few weeks back I visited Santorini for the first time in a long while. Sorely disappointed in the food and service, which is too bad because I'd enjoyed it in the past.

    I'm a sucker for whole fish too. If you haven't had one at Venus, just around the corner, you should. I had a Greek porgy there a few months back and it was exceptionally good and a good value.
  • Post #11 - February 1st, 2011, 9:55 am
    Post #11 - February 1st, 2011, 9:55 am Post #11 - February 1st, 2011, 9:55 am
    Wish I'd known about Venus on Saturday. Not sure if my father will let me live that one down. He called it the low point of his Chicago dining experience. Good thing I made it up to him the next night at Girl and the Goat.
  • Post #12 - February 1st, 2011, 10:07 am
    Post #12 - February 1st, 2011, 10:07 am Post #12 - February 1st, 2011, 10:07 am
    If it matters, Turkbob, Venus is Greek Cypriot. Nothing overtly political about the place, but they are into the Cyprus-specificness of the food, and it is very good. Antonius started an excellent thread on it some time ago, IIRC. Venus ges lost in the shuffle a bit because it's smaller and a tad out of the way, tucked into the storefront of a bland building.
  • Post #13 - February 5th, 2011, 9:22 am
    Post #13 - February 5th, 2011, 9:22 am Post #13 - February 5th, 2011, 9:22 am
    Curiousity sparked by the last few posts, I made it over to Santorini yesterday for a quick lunch with a friend. Santorini has always been my go-to Greektown spot--I've tried every restaurant on the strip multiple times (some against my will) and always concluded that Santorini was the least kitschy and most food focused of the lot.

    Arrived a bit after 1:00 to find the room mostly empty--storm hangover perhaps? That did seem strange for a Friday particularly but just guessing that folks from the loop weren't up for venturing over to Greektown given the weather.

    I wish I had more items to base my update on but found what I ordered (which are my "usuals") to be consistent and good. Avgolemono soup was nicely balanced, not too thick, well-seasoned and lemon was detectable (too often this soup is a thick gloppy mess--I've always liked Santorini's version).

    Santorini's taramasolata (the main item by which I judge the greek spots) has always been my favorite and it was its usual self--roe flavor and texture present, not tasting too much like cheap mayo (a big failing of some of the other places who shall be nameless) and nicely tangy.

    Santorini salad fresh and dressed properly. Bread fresh and delicious. I can't speak to anything else because other than getting some of the other spreads and occasionally adding grilled calamari to my salad (neither of which I did yesterday), these are the items I always order. Not too exciting, I know, but I was at least happy that they were still capably handled.

    Service was fine (other than discovering a used butter packet in the dish of unopened ones). The only other miss was no fruit served at the end of the meal. Considering that what they serve is often out of season and less than wonderful, I didn't really mind.

    Sorry that others had less than stellar experiences lately but I'm happy that my favorite free-valet-in-the-loop lunch spot is still able to deliver what I'm looking for.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #14 - March 23rd, 2021, 5:40 pm
    Post #14 - March 23rd, 2021, 5:40 pm Post #14 - March 23rd, 2021, 5:40 pm
    Another Greektown Legend, Santorini, Closes After 31 Years.

    https://chicago.eater.com/2021/3/23/223 ... ighborhood
    Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche - Lewis Grizzard

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