DINING OUT - ENTERTAINMENT

Zorbas, the Greek Taverna

Yiannis Zafeiroudis was a young cook in Greece when he and his wife began to seriously think about their future. Greece is an amazing country with a rich history and vibrant tourism industry. But itís also an expensive place to have a family, and they wanted more than they had for any future children. So they began to look around, and Chiang Mai was their fortunate destination almost a year ago. And most fortunate for those of us who live here, their new restaurant, Zorbas, the Greek Taverna, opened just over a month ago.

The Dining Out team recently sampled the fare at Zorbas and was delighted by the authenticity of the food, the informal atmosphere, and the almost full house in this new restaurant. Located on Moon Muang in the heart of the tourist area, adventuresome tourists and expatriates alike are sure to enjoy this sample of dishes from the Mediterranean. Yiannis emphasizes that Zorbas is a taverna, welcoming families and children, not a formal restaurant, so come prepared for plenty of movement and color.

We began our meal with a big Greek salad, lots of chilled fresh vegetables (interestingly, no lettuce) with a generously sized piece of cheese on the top and scattered with delicious black olives. Yiannis is very sensitive to the needs of his guests on low salt diets, so advised us to add salt to taste. The fine olive oil responded immediately, and there was barely a slice of cucumber left at the end of our meal. This salad is priced at 120 baht. A dish of souvlaki gyros featuring hot pita bread, tomato, finely sliced onion and tzatziki was placed before us. The marinated pork had been roasted on a big vertical rotisserie, tender and tasty. We ate it like an open-faced sandwich, careful to mop up every bit of tzatziki, that delicious yogurt sauce. This dish, priced at only 125 baht, is a sure winner. One of our favorite dishes was the vegetarian imam bailnti, an eggplant, garlic, onion and tomato combination that is baked and drizzled with a little fresh olive oil before serving. This is a rich vegetarian dish, full of deep, full flavor. It is priced at 140 baht. We were delighted to sample the pasticcio, a dish made with long macaroni and meat sauce, then stirred together and baked with a tasty cheese sauce. The portion is very generous, and will easily and happily feed a hungry back-packer for 160 baht. No Greek meal would be complete without moussaka, and Zorbas moussaka is delicious. Eggplant, meat sauce, b้chamel sauce are combined, then topped with thick potato custard, and baked to a golden brown. Priced at 170 baht a serving, it was quite satisfying.

I must share with you a small secret. Generally I am not a fan of sweets. So it is no small compliment when I say that the baklava was absolutely delicious, the best I have ever eaten. Every ethnic group whose ancestry goes back to the Middle East has a claim of their own on this scrumptious pastry, and the Greeks are no exception. Their major contribution to the development of this pastry was the creation of dough that made it possible to roll it as thin as a leaf, phyllo (filo) dough. This is a sensational treat at 100 baht per serving, full of nuts and topped with honey.

Zorbas, of course, has many dishes we were not able to try. Starters range from 50 baht for a single starter up to 450 baht for a sampling of all of the featured starters. And there are burgers and steaks at 145 to 155 baht. They also feature a selection of beers and spirits, sodas and juices, coffees and teas priced from 25 to 60 baht. But donít miss the Greek coffee when you go. Itís unforgettable.

Zorbas, the Greek Taverna, is open daily for lunch and dinner, no reservations are required but the restaurant has now been ďdiscoveredĒ and you may have a brief wait. 29/7 Moon Muang Road, Chiang Mai 50000. Telephone 06-673-3495. Email [email protected]
yahoo.gr. Parking can be problematic in this very busy area of town. Take a taxi or look for parking near the moat. Take out available.