Argo - the culinary voyage
Updated: 2012-03-04 07:50
By Eric Jou (China Daily)
The Argos Plate contains an ice-cream scoop of hummus, eggplant puree, dolmades, tzatziki and a meatball. [Eric Jou / China Daily]
One of my fondest memories of growing up in New York City was eating at Fontana's Famous Pizza & Gyros, located in Queens. The small Greek diner made me a fan of pita plates and gyros. Now that I'm living in Beijing, I've been looking for a place to satisfy my longing for simple Greek cuisine, and I've finally found the place in Argo.
Argo, which lies within the Wudaoying Hutong next to the Yonghegong Lama Temple, looks very unassuming from the outside. Apart from the Greek flag-colored sign out front, it is easily overlooked. Nothing screams Greek about it until you make it past the courtyard and into the dining rooms.
The dining area in the back can easily host a party; it even has children's tables with toys on them. Despite having lots of space at the back, the main dining area is a small caf/bar that seats only about 16.
Dcor and everything aside, the most exciting part was the Argo menu. With all the staples of what you would expect from a Greek restaurant, Argo also offers an extensive wine and drinks list.
The staff has been trained not to hover until you order but to be there once you're ready - a huge plus in my book.
I ordered the Argos Plate to start the meal. While waiting, the waitress brought some free bread and hummus.
Luckily, I waited till my appetizer arrived before digging into the bread. The dish itself contained an ice-cream scoop of hummus, eggplant puree, dolmades, tzatziki and a meatball. However, it did not come with any pita.
Slightly confused and disappointed with my appetizer, I prepared to be wowed by my entre, the Gyro Plate. The picture on the menu was of a mountain of doner kebabs topped with chopped tomatoes and onions and tzatziki, and surrounded by a moat of French fries and pita.
What I got was exactly the same as the photo, a mountain of food.
The pita felt hard, almost like the bread found in Xinjiang cuisine, but that aside, the texture and flavor of the kebabs were spot on.
The tzatziki was light and airy, with a cucumber aftertaste. There was so much food that I had to ask for a doggie bag.
After the Gyro Plate, I was more than ready to pay my bill and walk away, but no meal is complete without dessert, so I ordered the baklava.
The baklava, a Turkish dessert that has become a favorite around the Mediterranean, came as a very big slice drenched in honey.
It exuded a strong scent of cinnamon, which overpowered the aroma of meat and French fries surrounding my table.
While the baklava tasted like it was made a few days ago and held in cold storage, for the most part the flavors were spot on, despite the unusual cinnamon flavor, which was actually quite refreshing.
The total for my late-afternoon meal came to 170 yuan ($27). That might seem costly, but for the amount of food I got, it was worth it. While Argo isn't Fontana's back home in New York, it is certainly my new stomping ground whenever I have a hankering for Greek food.
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