One of the swankiest restaurants I've been to in years has opened on Oakland Park Boulevard near the ocean.
There's no mistaking Thasos for anything but a Greek restaurant, but Fort Lauderdale architect Art Bengochea and Greek designer Angelos Angelopoulos have created a modernist homage to classical design.
The entire dining room is awash in white, from the stone walls to the upholstery to the waiters in their white shirts and jeans. It makes for a dramatic visual experience when the only color on your table are the pops of blue glass side plates. There are 150 seats inside and another 75 outside, which will be wonderful once the weather cools down and the breeze can flow through the key holes in the walls.
Thasos is as much a lounge as a restaurant, with slides of Greek scenes projected on the walls and music played at a volume that sometimes makes it difficult to hear or converse. The front of the restaurant houses a very nice bar and communal high top tables. I wish the restaurant would lower the volume just a little during peak dinner hours.
I hoped the food would live up to the attention paid to interior design. But Thasos has some work to do and they've raised the bar so high that I'm confident they'll get it right.
The restaurant's concise 38-item menu is divided into four parts: Greek spreads; From the garden; Shared plates; and From the fire.
We started with piatela ($20), a selection of spreads — taramasalata, eggplant and tzatziki among them — presented in striking white bowls with herb accented bread. Whipped feta with hot chilies was our favorite.
Brussels sprouts ($8) with lemon, honey and house-cured pork belly were well-intended, but the pork didn't flavor the sprouts and acted more as garnish. Be sure to order the crispy zucchini chips with taztziki ($13) — which are quickly becoming standard fare at South Florida Greek restaurants. Spanakopita ($9) was made with high quality feta. Fire-grilled octopus ($20) was tender, but the flavor seemed artificially amped up and the dish wasn't hot enough.
Temperature was also a problem with spit roasted crown rack of pork ($25). The pork was moist and tender, but cold. When I asked for it to be heated up, it came back in two short minutes at exactly the same temperature. The accompanying zucchini fritters weren't crisp enough.
Lamb chops ($29) were cut unevenly, so some were cooked to medium rare while others came off the grill well done. Spit roasted chicken with lemon herb potatoes ($18) was also overcooked, but the potatoes were delightful.
I don't think I've tasted a better moussaka ($17), the classic lamb and eggplant casserole with a topping that borders on souffle. It's made even better by being presented in its own metal serving pan set on a homey cloth napkin on a white plate.
At dessert time, the kitchen's take on cheesecake ($8) tastes entirely new and wholly Greek. What makes it so wonderfully sour? Likewise, classic galaktoboureko ($7) — custard with phyllo — is an exceptional way to end a meal.
One more thing.
Thasos needs to up its service game. From the hostess stand to the servers, the staff exhibited none of the hospitality that Greece is famous for.
Time will tell.
jtanasychuk@SouthFlorida.com or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at SouthFlorida.com/sup and follow him on Twitter @FloridaEats.
Thasos Greek Taverna
3330 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Hours: Dinner daily
Reservations: Strongly suggested
Credit cards: AE, MC, V
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Noisy when full
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: free valet