The girls at work and I share a weekly lunch together, and it is a time where we sample the restaurants in San Francisco's Financial District and its vicinity. This past week, we splurged at a pricier restaurant, and enjoyed a leisurely two-hour lunch at the famed Kokkari Estiatorio.
To start, we ordered an appetizer platter layered with thick wedges of grilled Middle Eastern flatbread-style pitas. The pita bread was soft, chewy, and had fluffy, air-pocket-filled, pancake-like interiors. The pita segments came with chilled cucumbers sliced on a bias, a lone kalamata olive, and three types of chilled pita dips.
The first dip was astonishing. It was delightfully cloud-like and creamy. It was favosalata, or a whipped feta dip permeated with the pungent essence of green scallions and the nectar-like fruitiness of extra virgin olive oil. It was so funny to see the reaction of my co-workers as we each took turns sampling the favosalata dip. Like dominoes, upon tasting the heavenly feta and olive oil dip, each lady would widen her eyes, arch up her brows, and breathily murmur, "Mmmm."
The other dips were also delectable. The pita platter came with a rich and creamy tzatziki so thick that the yogurt, cucumber, and dill mixture didn't just coat the back of the serving spoon, it tenaciously clung onto the spoon in a gravity-defying clump similar to a tremendous dollop of sour cream. The platter also include a mashed melitzanosalata, which is similar to a baba ganoush of roasted eggplant. In the eggplant dip, I could taste sweetness of the roasted garlic and tomatoes, and I could see the green specks of parsley dotting the eggplant mash.
My co-workers ordered dolmathes, or grape leaves tenderly yet tightly wrapped around tiny logs of rice, sweet currants, and earthy pine nuts bound together by a light olive oil dressing; watermelon and feta salad made with sugary bricks of chilled and seedless watermelon, crunchy kernels of toasted pine nuts, leaves of Greek basil, and a golden drizzling of extra virgin olive oil; and
a Greek-themed ravioli stuffed with wild greens and feta cheese and coated with a fresh sauce made with summer tomatoes and dill.
I ordered the lamb souvlaki, or grilled lamb skewers made of spiced ground lamb firmly pressed onto wooden skewers by the steady grip of a chef. The spice blend melted the gamey aftertaste of lamb into a faint fragrance, and the moist meat provided a toothsome resistance as I bit and tugged each mouthful off of the skewer. The roasted tomato retained its fresh sweetness and juiciness, but the roasting process had reduced and concentrated the liquid and rich tomato flavors so that it had the intensity of a sun-dried tomato.
As we ended our meal, we agreed with one another that sometimes, the Financial District has its share of derelict duds. However, the hypnotizing Mediterranean flavors and the bustling ambiance of Kokkari convinced us that Kokkari was definitely not one of those.