Monday, September 12, 2011

El Greco -- an update

I had a great dinner at El Greco about two months ago; you can read that previous post here. A couple of weeks ago, El Greco participated in Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares show on FOX, where the rather belligerent Ramsay comes to "rescue" a failing restaurant. He spends time in the restaurant, yells a bunch, makes some changes, and leaves -- all in the name of television ratings, I am sure. Or at least so I am told that's how it goes, as I have never watched the show. (I couldn't take all the yelling and insults he hurls on Hell's Kitchen.)

My dining companion wanted some good healthy Mediterranean food for lunch, so it was off to El Greco. Apparently we were the first diners for Saturday lunch, arriving a bit past 11:30 am.  We were immediately greeted and told to sit wherever we wished. As we sat, I could hear some yelling in the kitchen; something about "put the meat in the oven" and I could hear the word "dumbass" but don't know the exact context. I could hear the overtones of yelling or some sort of grumbling at least one other time during our meal. (I am fairly certain these were coming from the chef.)

Our greeter/server came right over, welcomed us, and introduced himself as Dustin. We started chatting about the newly designed menu, and he gave us a few tidbits about their experience. He said it was grueling, but he felt worth it in the end. The owner and chef, Jake, had actually applied to the show over 3 years ago on a whim, but didn't hear anything until 8 months ago. FOX sent a camera crew out, and they took a bit of test footage of the kitchen, and then back to what I presume would be the show's producers. Once El Greco was officially chosen for the makeover, each person who works for the restaurant had to fill out a 14 page questionnaire. The restaurant also had to sign a contract agreeing to abide by the new menu items. Previous customer favorites, like dolmas, were removed, and can no longer be served, and I believe he said they used to do catering, which currently they cannot do. No word on how long these freezes are in effect.

I really like the new look of the menus, very streamlined and clean; the previous was a bit cluttered. (At this writing, the old menu is still up on their website.)
The interior decor doesn't seem all that different, though there are now Greek statue head profiles painted on the walls, and everything is in white and blue. 
I ordered the lamb pita sandwich, and my friend the Greek salad with grilled shrimp. Unfortunately, Dustin came back to say the lamb wasn't ready yet. So I went with the gyro.
Once you got past the shrimp, there wasn't a whole lot to the salad. My friend, who has watched the show, said that Gordon is all about downsizing the portions and that seemed pretty evident with her salad. Also, she asked for no onions, and it did come with them, My gyro was okay...the meat a bit dry, and a little more bread than meat. When Dustin came to clear our plates, he asked how things were, and I told him it was on the dry side. He did apologize (again) for the lamb not being ready, as that was one of his favorites.

Overall, the menu looks decent, not that different than the old, with the exception of two new hummus appetizers, a chipotle and Hatch (New Mexico green) chile.  We were told they were proving to be very popular, but the thought of a green chile hummus in a Greek restaurant makes me cringe, sorry! Our server was great, but I'd say the jury's still out on the food changes at El Greco. The show is supposed to air in October.