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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kafe Neo in Long Beach: Good Calamari, Great Chicken Kebab and Interesting Falafel

I'm a big fan of Greek food, but have always found it hard to find good Greek food in LA. I first found Cafe Santorini in Pasadena that had very good grilled squid. Now I found a pretty good place in Long Beach called Kafe Neo. Behold the perfectly fried calamari!

I liked the lightly battered calamari and the only beef was that it wasn't as seasoned as it could be. In a way, this is good because everybody under the sun tends to over-salt things. And I'm assuming it was to dip it one of two sauces it came with, a aioli-like sauce and red marinara sauce that were a bit on the bland side. I also wished they had a grilled version available but still, it was good.

We also had the appetizer sampler that included dips like kalamata olive tapenade, roasted red peppers, hummus, tzatziki and an interesting addition of spicy feta in dip form.

I had hoped the feta would be spicier but it was pretty mild for a "spicy" label albeit different.

The spicy feta made another appearance, this time with none other than french fries. It was interesting but not sure I'd get it again. I mean, it's hard to go wrong with french fries, but it wasn't an ideal match. Plus, the feta could be spicier, but now I'm repeating myself...

I got the Horta, which is a hot salad of dandelion green sauteed with a motherload of garlic, lemon and topped with some crumbled feta cheese. I got chicken kebab on the side. The garlicky greens were really refreshing thanks to the tanginess from the citrus. I also liked that the feta wasn't the super salty kind most Greek restaurants here use. The chicken was also very juicy and charred just right on the edges from the flame-broil or grill. But I didn't get to eat much of my main meal because I had munched on the following starters.

Yes, spanakopitas galore! I had one but these weren't my favorite thing we had. Again, it's hard to go wrong with fried phyllo dough filled with spinach and feta. They were crispy but maybe it was their oddly large size that we had to cut into pieces to share that threw us off. They weren't bad but I've definitely had better.

I also had a falafel shared by a lunch companion that was very interesting. The flavor was good but what fascinated me was that when cut in half, I could see the whole chickpeas that hadn't been ground. What I liked was that it tasted freshly assembled and fried, as if it were made to order. I'm guessing the beautiful green color comes from parsley. I really enjoyed this what to me tasted like an unusual falafel. I'm not sure it went best with tzatziki sauce but I could always ask for a spicy sauce next time I go.

I got the fresh lemonade that I thought was too sweet. It would be good diluted with some spritz or plain water.

I also liked the space -- bright and airy, with a great outdoor patio. Perfect for breezy and sunny SoCal weather.

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