The combination plate ($19.95) at Plaka Authentic Greek Cuisine would enable me to taste as many of the restaurant’s specialties as possible. It was a large, very full plate, holding sliced leg of lamb, dolmathes, moussaka, gyro meat, pastitsio, rice and potatoes, all of them excellent renditions of Greek classics.
And all of them cold.
I’m definitely not a hot-food purist. While one of my grandmothers would readily gulp coffee heated just about to boiling, I definitely didn’t inherit the asbestos-mouth gene. I seldom get through more than one cup of coffee because I have to wait for it to cool, and I have an active dislike for soups or other foods that are so hot I can’t eat them as soon as they’re served.
This was something else, though. I happened to taste the dolmathes (stuffed grape leaf) first, and I instantly noticed that it was cold. I wasn’t really all that surprised because that delicacy can be served either hot or cold. I did think it sort of odd that it was cold because there was a sauce on it. And then I tasted the rice.
I went immediately to the pastitsio. Same thing. Moussaka, ditto. Lamb and gyro meats, potatoes. All of it well below lukewarm.
No, I realize that none of the foods on this platter would be made to order; moussaka and pastitsio are casserole-style dishes, generally made in large pans, and the meats would be sliced off of larger pieces. So why, I ask you, in the 21st century, when restaurants have various methods for heating things, would they not heat the platter sufficiently? I have no idea.
I thought maybe it was held while waiting for our other entree, the chicken shish kabob ($17.50), which generally would be grilled to order, but that dish was only slightly warmer than the platter.
And it was absolutely a shame. The pastitisio was just the right texture, full of flavor and topped with a carefully caramelized layer of bechamel. The beef-based moussaka was excellent, the lamb and gyro meats both succulent, the rice and potatoes well seasoned. But the food clearly wasn’t checked with a stem thermometer, or if it was, it was held too long afterward.
It was much the same with the chicken. It had been marinated and was well-flavored and moist, but it wasn’t hot enough.
That wasn’t the case with our appetizer, but that was because it was flamed at tableside. Saganaki ($8.75) is one of my favorites, and this version, with kefalo cheese (which tends to be slightly more assertive than the more common kasseri), was excellent. Since we were sharing, we appreciated that our waiter cut it up before placing it on the table.
Our dinners also came with serviceable Greek salads — iceberg with one Greek olive, one piece of tomato, one piece of green pepper, some feta and a decent vinaigrette — although we noticed later that the menu lists a choice of soup or salad (which our waiter didn’t mention), and we would’ve liked to try the soup since the menu said the avgolemono is made daily.
We really see a lot of potential in Plaka, which has been freshened considerably since the previous tenants. The tables are topped with green and yellow linens — a nice break from the stereotypical blue — there’s an attractive scenic mural across one end of the dining room and a stage for live music, which apparently is provided on weekends.
And despite the howls of protest I’m likely to hear, I’m only taking off one letter grade because everything (well, except the slightly lackluster salads) was excellent, and this is something that’s awfully easy to fix.
But it’s something they definitely need to fix.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com, or call 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.