As Cyprus is one of those places that has had the pleasure of being invaded and fought over throughout its history, the menu reflects both Greek and more Middle Eastern/Turkish influences. In fact, it seems ideally located on the continuity of tastiness that runs from Mediterranean to Middle Eastern cuisine.
We started with a few plates of hummus, served with warm, soft pita. The hummus was on the thinner side of the spectrum, but still very tasty and topped with olive oil and a small salad of lettuce, tomato and radish.
A few people had their eyes on the Cyprus Calamari, actually a grilled sepia, but were forced to make other plans when our waitress told them they were all out. Some went for the Kanella platter, a nice sampler of grape leaves, falafel, zucchini fritter, tabouleh, and some salad-y items. I had the grilled halloumi and lounza sandwich. Halloumi is the magical non-melting cheese, with a texture like a very firm and dry mozzarella, but a salty taste more like feta. Lounza is a smoked pork loin that could certainly be mistaken for ham or Canadian bacon in a dark room. Served on a lovely multigrain and seed-studded roll, the grilled flavor of the cheese and the smokey pork made for a great combo.
I also got to sample a coworker's lacham atzeen, which is an Armenian dish featuring spiced ground lamb with mint served on a flatbread with pine nuts. The tart yet slightly sweet yogurt on the side added a wonderful richness to the tasty lamb.
Most of the table ended up getting dessert. One was the mahalepi, a white pudding topped with rosewater syrup and pistachios. It was maybe a little too rosy for my taste, but still refreshing. The other dessert ordered was galatopoureko, which is fillo pastry filled with semolina custard, topped with orange syrup. The custard had an almost bread pudding-like consistency, and the honied orange syrup and preserved orange slices served on the side were delectable.
Perhaps the best part of the meal was the price – all of the entrees are under $12, making it a perfect spot for a sit-down lunch. The overall quality of the flavors and preparation exceeded anything at any Greek restaurant I've ever been to, and the freshness of everything was evident. Plus, the place, though BYOB, is conveniently situated right across the street from Varga Bar, so if you're in the mood you can get your beer on either before or after. (I don't suppose Varga would be too happy with you ordering a pint and walking it across the street?)
At any rate, I was sufficiently impressed that I'd love to come back for dinner (or breakfast, for which there are also quite a few menu selections). Lunch made a fine introduction to
Cyprish Cypriot food, and we're lucky to have a place serving this cuisine nearby.