The return of authentic Greek fare to Baton Rouge...
Lebanese places that offer quick meals consisting of gyro sandwiches and hummus platters are plentiful in Baton Rouge, but after the closing of original Zorba's on Perkins Road twelve years ago, the city has lacked a venue that serves authentic Greek cuisine. Fortunately after a long sojourn to their native island of Cyprus, husband and wife team Dino and Polina Economides have returned to the U.S. in order to spend more time with their children who now attend LSU. After many nights of deliberations and an extensive search for the perfect location, they reopened Zorba's about two months ago on Essen Lane.
Polina serves as the chef and has brought back many old favorites as well as adding salads, seafood dishes and lamb chops to the menu. Her focus is on fresh ingredients and authenticity. Since opening Dino says, "The response has been overwhelming. Old customers have been showing up. They did not forget us. We are very grateful." The new restaurant has also been attracting a younger crowd. "People eat out more. Baton Rouge has grown," says Dino, "The younger crowd has a real love affair with Mediterranean food."
The freshness of the menu correlates well with the modern Mediterranean atmosphere. Hues of vivid blues dominate the color scheme making the space reminiscent of the Aegean Sea on a clear summer's day.
Start the evening with excitement by ordering the cheese saganaki as an appetizer, which consists of Greek kasseri cheese flambéed tableside and served with warm pita. For a main course Dino suggests first timers order a chicken or lamb souvlaki platter, a kebab dish served with roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables.
For those more experienced with Greek cuisine, Zorba's offers moussaka, a baked Greek dish that incorporates layers of eggplant, potatoes and ground beef. On my last visit, I tried another baked dish called pastichio, which was comprised of pasta, ground beef, and kasseri cheese topped with béchamel sauce. It made for a warm and hearty dinner. The carefully balanced, yet pronounced flavor of the food is what sets Zorba's apart from other local Mediterranean establishments. Even something as standard as a their gyro platter possesses a subtle uniqueness. The meat has a slightly smoky, more complex flavor that pairs well with potatoes fournou which have been slow roasted and have a well-seasoned richness.
Of course, the perfect finish to any meal at Zorba's is a square of homemade baklava and a Greek coffee. I always leave completely satisfied and know my meal has been well worth doing battle with the traffic on Essen Lane. 5713 Essen Lane Suite B. 225-444-5074 or www.zorbasbistro.com.