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Greek Eating: Lots of Lamb and Soul

<i> Compiled by Kathie Jenkins</i>

You will not find Zorba the Greek dancing in any of the following restaurants . You will, however, find lots of lamb and lots of soul.

Corfu Greek Restaurant (1383 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 479-8892). Corfu is a place for robustly flavored home cooking, redolent of onion, lemon and oregano. The cinnamony meatballs and meaty grape leaves with bechamel sauce are both wonderful appetizers. In the entree department, you’re in luck if you like lamb. There are little grilled lamb chops (payidakia) , moist and tender shish kebab (souvlakia) and a dish of tender, lemony baked lamb called kleftiko . Lamb haters are limited to chicken souvlakia or roast chicken. The best dessert here is the ekmek , fried vermicelli, topped with thickened cream. An added attraction is their rather large Greek wine list. Lunch and dinner Mon.-Fri., dinner only Sat. and Sun. All major credit cards. Beer and wine. Street parking. Dinner for two, food only, $35-$45. Grecian Paradise (18928 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, (818) 705-0633). This Tarzana cafe serves up homey food in a homey atmosphere. Start with the tzatziki (a mixture of yogurt, shredded cucumber and garlic) or taramosalata (a blend of Greek red caviar, lemon, oil and garlic). Both are excellent spread on warm pita bread triangles. Dinner specialties include dolma avgolemono (grape leaves stuffed with ground meat and rice and topped with egg-lemon sauce) and spanakopeta (spinach and cheese baked in buttery filo). Garides tourkolimano (shrimp, sauteed in fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, wine and herbs) comes with plenty of onion and garlic. Galactobourako , firm custard sandwiched between thin layers of filo and served with a cinnamon and rose-water flavored syrup, makes a terrific dessert choice. Lunch and dinner Tue.-Fri., dinner only Sat. and Sun. MasterCard, Visa and American Express accepted. Full bar. Parking lot. Dinner for two, food only, $20-$35. Greek Out! (46 Windward Ave., Venice, (213) 392-4879). You’ll recognize Greek Out! by its Grecian blue awning and outdoor tables, usually occupied by the local skateboard crowd who eat cheeseburgers and gyros . The rest of the menu isn’t much more complicated: falafel, souvlakia, dolma, moussaka, etc. The Greek salad is fresh and spiffy, the hummus (garbanzo and tahini spread) tastes particularly smooth, and the yogurt-cucumber tzatziki is positively perky. Large boneless pieces of chicken souvlaki come in a delicious sauce. A good set of teeth is needed for the lamb souvlakia. Falafel, bursting with cumin, is crisp, not greasy; slices of gyros, the spit-roasted lamb and beef combination, are well-spiced and surprisingly moist. The skateboard crowd seems to prefer the delicious dark chocolate brownies for dessert. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. Street parking. No alcohol. Dinner for two, food only, $10-$20. Le Petit Greek (127 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 464-5160). Different than the city’s other Greek restaurants, this sparkling whitewashed room, brightened with mirrors and fresh touches of green, has a certain cosmopolitan sophistication. (It is not the sort of place where people get up and dance.) Service is good, and there’s a nice little wine list. The food is good; some of it is memorable. Memorable includes the moist king salmon in a cream sauce with pureed Greek olives, fresh tomatoes and basil. Memorable also includes Greek pizza, a thin-crusted composition of feta cheese, beef sausage, tomatoes, green pepper and basil and fasolakia , green beans (these are beans with soul) baked with tomatoes and an assortment of herbs. Memorable also is the sauteed squid with lemon and capers--the squid comes perfectly cooked, hot and crisp. Lunch and dinner Tue.-Sat., dinner only Sun. MasterCard, Visa and American Express. Beer and wine. Street parking. Dinner for two, food only, $25-$40. A Taste of Athens (924 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (818) 793-6664). Some of the best reasons to try this Pasadena restaurant are the daily specials they serve up. Moussaka (Fridays) is a delight. This is a dish for big eaters: traditional layers of sliced potatoes, zucchini, eggplant and ground beef all baked together. Less heavy, but equally delightful are the dolmades (Wednesdays)--grape leaves stuffed with ground beef, herbs and rice--topped with a light egg-and-lemon sauce. There is an extensive list of fish dishes. The red snapper comes light and flaky. Meat lovers can choose from keftedakia (fiery Greek meatballs), loukaniko (sausage), cylkadakia (fried sweetbreads), or opt for the combination plate. Save room for dessert and order the karidopitta , a mix of chopped nuts, cinnamon and spices in sweet dough dripping with honey. Lunch and dinner Tue.-Sat., lunch only Mon. MasterCard, Visa and American Express. Beer and wine. Parking in rear. Dinner for two, food only, $10-30.


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