Has any name come to represent all things Greek, at least in the U.S., more than Zorba? “Zorba the Greek,” a 1964 movie based on a 1946 novel of the same name, and “Zorba,” a 1968 Broadway musical version, made Zorba and Greek synonymous. And slightly trite.
But now comes Zorba’s Kitchen, bringing Greek cuisine to East Orlando by way of…France?
The new restaurant, which took over the space (or part of the space) that was most recently occupied by the Meatball Stoppe, is owned by Yiannis Bouyouris, who preciously had two Kitchens Zorba in Nice. But, as he writes on the restaurant’s website, “Greece is where I developed my culinary skills.” (In retrospect, Zorba’s Kitchen is easier to say than Yiannis’s Kitchen.)
The website also says that the cuisine is family-style, which I think is meant to mean that it’s not fancy rather than served on platters to be passed around the table, though that’s how my dining companions ended up eating.
We started with the Platter Zorba’s, a sampler of hummus, tzatziki and taramosalata dips plus some olives and mini spanakopita. The taramosalata was my favorite because of its luscious mouthfeel and salty flavor from the cod roe. The flaky spinach pies were good too.
We also had an order of dolmades, grape leaves rolled up with seasoned rice inside, served with creamy tzatziki.
I was disappointed that moussaka, the eggplant dish, is served only on Fridays and Saturdays. But I got over it once I had a bite of the pastitsio, referred to on the menu as Greek lasagna, which itself is available only on Mondays and Tuesdays. (Maybe that’s what they mean by family style.) It was a sizable, dense brick of macaroni (instead of pasta sheets as in Italian lasagna) with ground beef and a layer of bechamel, baked to a dark brown. It was accompanied by a lettuceless Greek salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and olives) and a dollop of hummus.
I tried two gyros, lamb and chicken, both served on soft and doughy pitas wrapped as a cone with tzatziki splotched on top. Best to unwrap a bit and spread the sauce evenly then rewrap to eat. Both meats were good so it’s just a matter of which you prefer.
The Greek meatballs, served on rice, were nothing special. Maybe they’re on the menu as a paean to the previous tenant?
I ordered the food by phone for takeout, which turned out to be a good move – I think my party of four would have had to wrangle for table space with the one couple dining in the small space. (Maybe not that small, but it’s small.)
The man who took my order, quite likely Bouyouris himself, was gracious and welcoming, coming out from the kitchen to deliver food and take orders as needed, then heading back to help cook.
The name Zorba means live each day with passion. It’s clear that some of that passion is in the food – especially on Mondays and Tuesdays.