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Kokkari Estiatorio: Kokkari Estiatorio Has Great Atmosphere

Kokkari Estiatorio: Kokkari Estiatorio Has Great Atmosphere


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Kokkari Estiatorio Has Great Atmosphere

This Greek restaurant is known for its classy atmosphere and upscale food. The octopus also gets rave reviews.


Greek Foody Talk

On the road for awhile, I finally had an opportunity on 11/20 to eat lunch at Kokkari Estiatorion of San Francisco, a very well-known Greek restaurant. Just as I was starting to write this, I saw that Kokkari has been ranked Number One SF restaurant in the Zagat 2015 Survey -- dethroning long-time champ Gary Danko in a newsworthy Bay Area culinary coup. OPA!

I had made a date with my old friend Lori Durbin after being jealous every time she mentioned Kokkari on Facebook. Turns out that Lori was also familiar with The Dead Fish restaurant in Crockett. That woman does get around. But I digress.

Kokkari lived up to my expectations and then some. It's an elegant place with an Old World feel right down to the fireplace with a lamb roasting on a spit. not to mention an enticing display of killer rustic bread loaves. Resisting the temptation of lamb as it should be cooked, we decided to share mezedhes (appetizers).

Unfortunately, I couldn't get Lori to agree to one of all-time favorites, Fried Smelts (see photo at top of this blog) as served with skordalia. So we settled on Grilled Calamari stuffed with feta, fennel & orange with black olives -- sublime!

The always-always-hoped-for Horta (braised seasonal greens with lemon & olive oil), were good -- but under-cooked according to my over-cooked Greek vegetable preferences, which I realize are not particularly gringo-friendly. I would have also preferred dandelion greens.

The Eggplant Salad (Melitzanosalata) and Tzatziki were excellent -- and the lush pita bread that comes with them quite satisfying.

But the pièce de resistance was the Gigantes, oven-baked "giant beans" with tomato sauce, olive oil & herbed feta. Lori became an instant a fan, even as I warned her that the authentic beans are hard to come by if you don't have a "Greek store" in your town. The package pictured here that I bought at Miami's St. Sophia Greek Festival for $6 is going on Amazon for $13.20 with Free Shipping directly from Greece.

Kokkari added a new twist to the usual Gigantes dish that was not disclosed in the menu description (probably with good reason) and caught me by surprise: a generous drizzle of pesto over the top that at first provoked an anti-nouvelle cuisine knee-jerk reaction. The beans were pretty awesome, but I had still had issues. No Greek cookbook I checked with -- including the game-changing, European-leaning "Greek Cookery" by Tselementes -- mentions Gigantes w/pesto.

Then a few days later I ran into Nick Thomas in my hometown of Stockton. His Greek father was in the produce business same as great-uncle Tony Gust and my father Steve. And, he said, after sharing various memories, "My mother made the best pesto!" So there you have it -- worthy of another OPA dedicated to trying something different if you know what you're doing. Bravo, Kokkari Estiatorion!

NOTE: Beans baked or cooked stove-top in tomato sauce have always been a favorite in my family. Indeed, "Mom's Gigantes" -- found on Page 68 of the St. Basil's "International Cookbook" (2010) -- is a testament to that. But they were usually made with dried large lima beans or even frozen limas. No "Greek store" in Stockton after the Fotinoses closed theirs.


Good food, great service, very comfy atmosphere. We went there for the first time last night and we were really impressed. The food was great and very filling, though it may seem a little pricey it is well worth it. And the food seems authentic.

We started off with some really good appetizers, nice selection on the menu. Then I had the lamb shank for dinner, which was awesome, the meat was literally falling off the bone. Leslie had the fish of the day, which she said was good and it was a pretty big portion - big enough to bring some home in a doggy bag. Even though we didn't order dessert they brought out some flourless chocolate cake because they new it was a special occasion.

Reall good wine selection too. Lots of new and old world wines, wines by the glass and half bottles. I like to experiment with different wines, so this was fun for me.

Sister restaurant to Evvia Estiatorio in Palo Alto, which I saw got some great reviews here.


Kokkari Estiatorio

1 of 2 Octapodaki tou Yiorgou, grilled octopus with lemon, oregano and olive oil served at Kokkari in San Francisco Calif., Sunday March 29, 2015. Randi Lynn Beach/Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 2 This is the interior of Kokkari in San Francisco Calif., Sunday March 29, 2015. Randi Lynn Beach/Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

When the 2015 Zagat Survey came out, the big surprise was that this Greek restaurant had found its way to the top of the food chain. It was on the Top 100 for many years, but fell off a few years ago because it seemed as if the kitchen was operating by rote. However, chef Erik Cosselmon has put it back on top. Anything from the rotisserie is a must, but Cosselmon also offers three different whole fish, either grilled with lemon or baked in the wood oven with tomatoes and olives. Two handsome dining rooms give diners different experiences: In the front there&rsquos a bar and a massive fireplace where lamb, chicken or other meats turn slowly on the rotisserie, and the surrounding tables have the feel of being in somebody&rsquos home. The Taverna in back feels more casual, with windows that overlook the street and a long open kitchen.

Cuisine: Greek

Specialties: Grilled octopus grilled feta-stuffed calamari grilled lamb riblets any rotisserie item moussaka grilled lamb chops with lemon oregano vinaigrette.

Seats: 185 (plus 14 at the bar) private rooms for 10 and 30


Old favorite Kokkari again on top of its game

When the 2015 edition of the Bay Area Zagat Survey came out in December, it contained a first: Kokkari was rated the region&rsquos top restaurant.

That was surprising on several counts: Kokkari has been around for more than 15 years, doesn&rsquot fit the cool industrial vibe of restaurants that have opened in the last decade, and its cuisine &mdash Greek &mdash isn&rsquot prominent in Northern California.

It&rsquos a grand restaurant in the old style, with finished-beam ceilings, wide-planked wood floors and a fireplace in the front dining room with a rotisserie big enough to cook haunches of meat and a dozen chickens at one time.

In the back dining room, called the Taverna, diners can see an open kitchen with a cadre of staff, including longtime chef Erik Cosselmon, putting out the food for up to 185 guests.

Yet even with the generous number of seats, getting a reservation isn&rsquot easy. It&rsquos become a gathering place for high rollers in the Financial District &mdash at my visit earlier this week, more than half the men had on suits and sport coats.

For many years Kokkari was on my Top 100 list, but it came off in 2010 when the food and service seemed rote. It felt similar on several return visits, and I hadn&rsquot been back for at least two years. But several people whose dining opinions I respect name Kokkari among their favorites, so I gave it another shot.

At my dinner this week, it seemed as if everything was back on track.

After being seated, however, it became evident that I was recognized as a critic, and our server was replaced by someone presumably more experienced, though much of the staff has been there for years. They know their legions of regulars. Still, looking around the dining room and into the kitchen, it was impressive to see the teamwork and the care taken with each dish that passed by.

While menus at newer restaurants are increasingly shorter, Kokkari still has enough choices to please everyone &mdash 27 appetizers, soups and salads, and 11 main courses.

Many specialties are grilled, including the popular octopus ($16) with lemon, olive oil and oregano, and what turned out to be a highlight: whole calamari ($11) stuffed with feta cheese that melts and oozes out when cut, accented with fennel, oranges and briny black olives.

The wood oven does its magic on such things as Brussels sprouts ($9.50), nearly blackened around the edges and dressed with loads of lemon and capers. The fryer shows off the crisp chicken livers ($9) &mdash golden and crunchy, having first been marinated in yogurt and feta, they&rsquore among the best I&rsquove had.

There&rsquos always a nightly special from the rotisserie &mdash on my visit it was lamb &mdash but I went with what many say is the best dish on the menu: three plump lamb chops ($43.50) grilled precisely to medium rare and enhanced with a lemon and oregano vinaigrette and wedges of crisp potatoes. They do deserve a &ldquobest of&rdquo status.

Kokkari is also known for its whole fish &mdash three kinds are available. They can either be simply grilled &mdash a suggested preparation for the petrale sole &mdash or roasted with tomatoes, olives and potatoes, which is what we chose for the branzino ($39.50). It came to the table whole &mdash although the waiter offered to fillet it in the kitchen if we didn&rsquot want to tackle the chore ourselves &mdash perfectly cooked and smothered in the sweet, balanced sauce.

With the smell of oregano and burning embers, diners could imagine themselves on the Greek Isles.

For those who dream of going there, the simple, pure food at Kokkari is an inducement to fulfill that desire.


Kokkari Estiatorio: Kokkari Estiatorio Has Great Atmosphere - Recipes

I’ve been coming to
Kokkari for years and I’m never disappointed!

I didn’t grow up eating Lamb but let’s just say I’ll eat lam here.

It’s a very timeless, casual yet elegant ambiance with a lovely wine selection. Waiters & waitresses are always professional and top notch. I love the eggplant here, the gigantes (oven baked giant beans, kalamari, grilled octopus and braised lamb shank!

Great food, cozy atmosphere. Clean bathrooms! The sister restaurant is Evvia in Palo Alto and they have great food as well.

We went to Kokkari for lunch in July 2018. The restaurant was surprisingly large and was fully packed. There is a modern ambiance, with traditional Greek flair, such as the chairs with rush weaving in the seats.

The food was good, though somewhat disappointing. They ventured off traditional Greek and modified them in ways to make them more modern, which was not always successful. For example, the moussaka has lamb meat, which is not a traditional Grek recipe. I did not order it, so I cannot comment on whether it was good or not, but I did find it odd.

My wife ordered the octopus salad, which was very good. I had the crispy smelts (small fish fried whole) and the peinirli (open pie with goat cheese and olives). The fish was good, but the batter had too strong a flavor which distracted a bit from the fish. The peinirli was OK - the dough was too soft and too sweet.

For desert, we ordered a galaktompoureko, which is a creme-filled pastry made of fillo dough. It was unimpressive and I would not order it again.

Despite what may appear a negative review, we did have a great meal. The execution of the food and the quality of the ingredients was excellent. I would definitely return, but I would get different dishes next time. A nearby table had a fish that looked spectacular.


Kokkari Estiatorio: Kokkari Estiatorio Has Great Atmosphere - Recipes

This restaurant features Greek cuisine. We shared a great appetizer of artichokes and eggplant. For the main course we had lamb chops and petrale sole, both were spectacular. The waiter helped us pick a very nice wine (Charter Oak zin). The service from the Maitre D' to the waiter was gracious and informative and we never felt rushed. There was plenty of time to relax, enjoy good conversation and great food. The setting is very interesting, with the feeling of being in an old Spanish mansion house. We were seated in the first room, which features a large open fireplace with a rotating spit at the front. Our table had cloth tablecloth and large upholstered chairs. The lighting was just right, with indirect lighting and floor lamps, and despite the large number of people it did not seem noisy. It is a sophisticated but cozy atmosphere. It is a large restaurant, with a great bar and there were people waiting the whole time we were there, so be sure to get a reservation.


Kokkari Estiatorio: Kokkari Estiatorio Has Great Atmosphere - Recipes

This was one of the better spots on our trip. Service was great, this place has a great energy/vibe about it, and the food is delicious. I highly recommend the grilled octopus as an appetizer. It is simple and delicious. the way good food should be. I had the lamb shank, which was very good (different, lots of cinnamon seasoning), and my wife had the special sea bass dish that night. also very good. The stand out for us was a berry desert that had been soaked in a rum, then chilled. It was really something else. Would recommend this place to anyone. just make sure you make reservations well in advance. this place is hard to get into.

2,287 - 2,291 of 2,711 reviews

This is a high energy spot that was packed on a Friday night. The noise level seems high at first, but we had no trouble having a normal conversation. The food is outstanding and reasonably priced. Have the grilled octopus starter and you'll have a five star dinner no matter what entre it's paired with. Great wine list, but it can be a budget buster.

There are several features here. The restaurant is in a fantastic old building, it has a nice bar, the wine list is very good and reasonable value and the food is well above average.

One feature here that will irritate some is the standing around waiting for a table. We waited more than 30 minutes for a reserved late evening table. We did get a bottle of champagne to help the wait. This allowed us to observe the front of house operations: an effusive Grecian man runs around placating the waiting punters while getting in the face of the brace of ridiculously beautiful Asian girls with Californian accents. Its cross cultural creative tension at its best - you can look at the clown, you can look at the girls, add sparkling wine and the minutes flow away. In the restaurant there are a flotilla of Cal couples dining that provide people watching distractions in the nicest way.

The food was good to excellent around the table with a range of appetizers and mains. Rated excellent were the fish specials and the goat. Lamb shank very good. Wine list is decorated, its broad and reasonably priced. We paid $70 for a Schild Shiraz, excllent, and $52 for Rodderer Sparkling very good.


Kokkari Estiatorio, San Francisco

Dined on December 24, Health inspection 96 out of The entire door staff is excellent every time, service is impeccable, the mixed drinks are always outstanding and still, the food is the star. Useful 1 Funny Cool. Stop following Vanessa Y. Nice and crispy, but wished the smelts were a little larger.

Report this review kokkrai inappropriate? Monday – Thursday, 5: This place is amazing. The soup was good as well. Best eaten ASAP with bread I really didn’t want to be disappointed and am so glad I wasn’t.

I have been coming to this restaurant now for a number of years and it never fails to disappoint me!. She’s a real beauty, w a chic, sophisticated interior. Previous Next 1 2 3 4 5 6 … What is Travelers’ Choice?

mmenu These spaces include a wide access aisle, an accessible route to the building, and identified signage. Sis named this as her “top” app, but it was just OK for me.


Kokkari Estiatorio

Kokkari Estiatorio, one of San Francisco's premier Greek restaurants, is fast becoming a lunchtime favorite of the local Democratic establishment.

Mayor Gavin Newsom is a regular, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein drop by when they are in town, said Democratic consultant Peter Ragone, who eats there three times a week. "If you call ahead and say, 'I need a place where we can be discreet,' they always take care of that," he added.

Kokkari owner George Marcus is a Democratic donor, which is part of the appeal. But the food, which also attracts hedge-fund managers and other financial types, is another draw. Lunchtime hits include juicy lamb souvlakis, as well as lamb shanks where the meat falls right off the bone. Main courses start at $14.50.

The dining area has an open fireplace, goatskin shades and a clientele that favors the suit-and-no-tie look. Those needing space to strike deals can opt for private rooms or semiprivate booths in the back. The politicians often prefer those -- except for ever-showy former Mayor Willie Brown, who fancies the window tables.


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