Of Feta and Kalamata

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The Wanderer experiences Vasili’s Greek Cuisine

words and photos by Holly Brown

There I was, sitting at my table, attempting to hide the anticipation that I felt in the wake of what was about to arrive. They weren’t there, and then they were: two servers appeared at my table, one holding a lighter, the other holding a cast iron skillet cradling the very thing to be lit on fire: a block of cheese.

“Are you all ready?!”

At least I think I responded, “Oh yeah!” with a whole lot of enthusiasm, but in all honesty I could have just mumbled and drooled.

“Opa!”

Suddenly flames, flying up into the air, the delicious smell of melting cheese amid the crackling of the flames next to our table. Just as the fire began, it was gone and the skillet containing the deliciously charred cheese block was placed before us all. This is Vasili’s, where you can literally have cheese lit on fire at your table.

***

IMG_4251Vasili’s is small and unassuming but as soon as you walk inside, the aroma of feta and olives is hard to ignore. I think it was then that I knew I was in for some of the most delicious and authentic Greek food I had ever had. I sat down at a booth with my foodie cohorts, picked up the menu, and saw that there was something called Saganaki, “Opa” in quotations next to it. Considering I know that “Opa” generally signals something not to be missed, I looked closer and realized it was a real life cheese experience for the bucket list: Kasseri cheese flamed at your table.

I absolutely had to have it. Which is exactly what I said to everyone. Don’t fret, they all agreed (I typically surround myself with people who share my affinity for adventures of the cheese sort). When that Saganaki arrived with perfectly sized slices of pita (just enough to get a good chunk of cheese but not so much that the cheese was obstructed) I was completely stunned and delighted by the lemony flavor that accompanied the richness of the kasseri. The fluffy pita soaked in the lemony runoff of the oil and when all three of those elements came together, I could easily see where the “Opa” came from.

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Mezedakia platter

Truth be told, I wasn’t sure if I could top the Saganaki with my entree. Flaming cheese is not something to be taken lightly. But as I’m sure you can guess, the entree certainly lived up to my high expectations. I decided to order the sample platter, the Mezedakia Platter. The beauty of writing this very column is having an excuse to try as many things as possible. With the Mezesakia holding: 1 Tiropita, 1 Spanakopita, 1 Dolmades, a side Greek Salad, gyro meat complete with more pita and tzatziki sauce, I got to try everything.

The Tiropita and Spanakopita were so light and flaky with just that right amount of barely there crush that the best pastries have. I absolutely love Spanakopita and the combination of feta and spinach in this particular Spanakopita was one of the best I’ve ever had. Considering the Tiropita is basically a cheese puff, it’s safe to say that I also enjoyed that immensely (you can truly never have enough cheese).

Believe it or not, I had never had grape leaves stuffed with ground beef as well as rice. It was a delicious surprise to cut into those tender, well oiled leaves and get a bite of both.

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Baklava

Speaking of meat, I really do believe the highlight of the Mezedakia platter was the gyro meat. It was juicy and spiced like nothing I’ve ever had and sliced into those token thin pieces. I couldn’t stop eating it, even when I was far beyond full. With the garlic of the tzatziki sauce and more poof pita, it was just yet another perfect combination that Vasili’s was able to hone. Special shoutout to the Gyro Supreme (which I definitely snuck a bite of) which brought all of these elements together into a monster of a sandwich.

Of course, you cannot get Greek food without also getting baklava, the most coveted of desserts. That flaky pastry shell, sweet syrupy filling and earthy nuts are impossible to resist and as you can guess from everything else I’ve described, at Vasili’s it was to die for.

Vasili’s Greek Cuisine, 1702 Merriman Rd, Akron, Mon-Sat: 11-9

 

22 recommended
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