A Taste Trip To Sunny Greece

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - February 11, 2009
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I had lunch at The Fat Greek on Waialae Avenue the other day, and it fired up my enthusiasm for fresh fish, salads and vegetables served in a distinctly Mediterranean way.

The restaurant has counter service, a busy vibe and a large menu board with Greek popular dishes like hummus, babaganoush (eggplant dip) gyros, falafel and salads. There’s seating both indoors and outside on a small lanai, and the restaurant does manage to convey a feeling of the Mediterranean despite its location opposite City Mill and in front of an Indian restaurant.

If you’re new to the flavors of Greek food, you’ll enjoy the simple dishes here, the pleasant staff and the reasonable pricing.

Aficionados, go further afield to Kahala where The Olive Tree Café owner Savas Mojarrad has been keeping the Greek community happily fed for almost 15 years. The food at The Olive Tree Café is excellent, and it’s no surprise that Mojarrad has a devoted following and has expanded-his tiny restaurant into a vibrant business with a food and wine store attached. “Oliver” is adjacent to the restaurant and sells wines and the ingredients needed for most popular Greek and Mediterranean dishes.


“We had so many customers over the years asking us about ingredients that we decided it would be a good idea to bring the most popular ingredients to Hawaii,” says Mojarrad.

There’s a range of Greek wines, organic wines, gourmet foods and specialty ingredients like Spanish cheeses that you can’t find anywhere else in Honolulu. Originally Mojarrad wanted to stock only Greek wines and organic wines, but he soon found out that not all of them were to his taste. “We changed our idea, and now carry only organic wines that taste good,” he says, laughing. Thanks to Oliver, you can re-create a Mediterranean paella, or make your own dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) with all the right ingredients. The store shares opening hours with the restaurant, from 5 to 9:30 p.m.

But if the Mediterranean culinary muse doesn’t strike, don’t worry, the food at The Olive Tree is so good you need never make a plate of falafel at home. The abundant use of olive oil, lemon juice and fresh ingredients in Greek food make this some of the healthiest dining around.

“You don’t need to do very much to food when you use the best ingredients,” says Mojarrad. “We use fresh, good ingredients and we use no butter or animal fat in our cooking.”

Try the homemade yogurt when you go. It’s incredibly creamy and rich, and goes well with almost every dish on the menu.

If it’s your first time there, try the fish souvlaki. Fresh from the early-morning fish auction, it’s served with minimal fuss and lots of fresh lemon juice. Other seafood offerings include mussels in a simple marinade.

Eggplant is a specialty here, and it’s offered in a variety of ways - all of them excellent, none more so than the Imam Bayaldi.

The restaurant does get really busy around opening time, so be prepared to hustle for a table when demand is high, or check out the wine store while waiting for your order. Oh, and get there early in the evening if you want to sample the full menu. Because Mojarrad uses fresh ingredients and makes everything from scratch daily. Specials run out quickly - always a sign of a great neighborhood restaurant.

Happy eating!

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