Mediocre food is always disappointing, especially when you’re craving something. That’s how my wife and I felt when we visited The Mad Greek Café on West Sahara Avenue for takeout recently. We’d been so hungry for Greek cuisine that we just couldn’t get into their so-so products.
When I awoke the next morning, I was even more desperate for some great pasticcio. Thankfully, that craving inspired me to visit a Greek restaurant I’ve been wanting to try for a few years — even though it’s located more than 20 minutes from my house. And The Great Greek, located just across the street from Sunset Station, did not disappoint.
The Great Greek is an unassuming spot run by Chef Jerry Goumroain. A veteran of fine-dining powerhouses like Guy Savoy, Bartolotta Ristaurante di Mare and rm Seafood, he abandoned the Strip in 2008 to work in his family’s business, the casual west-side restaurant The Fat Greek. Like just about every other Greek food fan in Las Vegas, I loved the place. So I was bummed when the family sold it in 2009. At the time, Jerry was planning an even more accessible “fast-casual” restaurant. So when he passed a vacant spot in his local strip-mall in 2010, he pounced.
I’ve been hearing great things about The Great Greek since it opened. For some reason, however, I’d never made it over there. So I suppose I should thank The Mad Greek for finally inspiring me to take the drive.
The restaurant is small, with room for about two dozen diners. You order from a counter and pour your own soft drinks from the fountain. The food brought to your table, however, is worthy of any sit-down Greek restaurant.
My wife and I began with tatziki ($4) and hummus ($4) accompanied by some wonderful fresh pita. Both dips were good, but the hummus was the better of the two. In addition to being perfectly seasoned, it was garnished with chickpeas that appeared to have been lightly toasted, giving them a crispy snap rather than the expected mushiness. We also shared a bowl of some of the best avgolomeno soup I’ve ever had ($3.50). While it was a bit light on chicken, the lemon in the broth provided just the right amount of citrus to dominate the flavor profile without overpowering the fresh dill sprinkled on top.
For our entrees we went with pasticcio ($10) and a daily special of moussaka ($12), both of which were served in heaping portions. On the surface, the dishes are similar (I’ve heard both described as Greek lasagna), but they’re also very different. I was blown away by the pasticcio. The delicious blend of pasta, creamy béchamel sauce, lightly spiced ground beef and fresh tomato sauce stood in stark contrast to the dry, flavorless version I’d had the previous evening. The moussaka wasn’t quite as good. Heavy on potatoes and light on eggplant, beef and béchamel, I found it just a little on the bland side — the only dish we ordered that wasn’t a home run.
Given the small size of The Great Greek, I couldn’t dine there without Jerry seeing me. So I wasn’t completely surprised when a dessert assortment I didn’t order arrived at my table. I turn down such gifts when reviewing a place, or at least refrain from writing about them. But they were so mouth-watering I had to give in and try them, and as a public service I’ll tell you the rock star of the dessert menu is the rice pudding.
In addition to the dishes I sampled, The Great Greek has plenty of other traditional dishes, including dolmades ($5), spanakopita ($2.50), falafel ($7), gyro ($7.50) and souvlaki ($12). It also offers a rice bowl featuring your choice of chicken, falafel, gyro, shrimp or salmon with veggies and feta cheese ($10). And I’ve resolved to taste as many as possible in 2013, despite the drive.
THE GREAT GREEK, 1275 W. Warm Springs Road, 547-2377. Read more about the Las Vegas dining scene on Al Mancini’s blog, www.almancini.net.