High above the clouds on Mt. Olympus, the council of deities are smiling down upon two childhood friends: Vasili Kotsiovos (Founder and CEO) and Dino Marougas (Chief Culinary Officer and former chef at the Patina Group). With a deep passion for food and a rich heritage (borne from the regions of Athens, Tessaloniki and Patras), Kentro Greek Kitchen is their homage to everything evocative of the good life that is characteristic of the Hellenic Republic: good food, good wine, good company.
Kentro, or Center in Greek, is at the core of hip and modern this side of Orange County. You won’t find the imposing columns, prominent flag and kitschy landscapes that scream stereotypical Greek eatery here. Conceptualized as a boutique restaurant, Kentro veers from these cookie-cutter establishments by offering a specialized, authentic cuisine; a vibrant atmosphere; and a deft hand of subdued sophistication.
The menu at Kentro is an updated version of grandma’s much-loved recipes; with a slight twist for the more discerning foodaficionado. Standout entrées include a delectable roster of paithakia (grilled, frenched lamb chops), brizola (rib-eye in red wine ) and pork souvlaki (marinated pork skewer). If creatures from the sea are more your style, they also serve pan-fried or char-broiled seasonal fish dishes. Although most people stay safe and nix the broiled octopus, it will definitely entice the more adventurous palate.
Ideal for sharing at the table are small plates like melitzanosalata (eggplant, garlic and parsley spread), zucchini keftedes (zucchini fritters with pickled vegetables and yogurt) and a beet salad (beets, figs, manouri cheese with a walnut vinaigrette). The saganaki (pan-fried kefalotiri cheese) and mousaka (an eggplant casserole akin to lasagna) always garner rave reviews and the loukoumades (warm, dense beignets bathed in a cinnamon honey syrup) are legendary.
During the day, you can laze about Kentro with a cup of finely stone ground Greek espresso or frappe and grab a sto heri, meaning “in hand”, like a pastry or pita wrap. In the evening, the coffee counter turns into a wine bar where one can gather with friends to discuss art, politics or the new Facebook killer, Google+.
One corner of the restaurant is dedicated to the marketplace or mini Agora, if you will. All imported from Greece, showcased are beer and specialty foods such as figs, pastries, chocolates and coffees. The handpicked red and white varietals tap into an unsaturated Greek wine market. With just a few items purchased, you are able to take some of the tastes of your dining experience home to enjoy.
3 Questions with Vasili Kotsiovos:
1. What sets Kentro apart from the other Greek restaurants that most people visit?
Kentro is the first of its kind in regards to the experience we give our guests. At Kentro, we are not only serving hand created couture Greek dishes; we are serving and creating an experience as well. Kentro has been a 10 year consumer market project for us. When you visit Kentro, you are experiencing a culmination of our travels to Greece and our interactions with the European lifestyle of eating out. Kentro places you in an environment that welcomes interaction with other guests.
2.Why and how did you and Dino decide on pursuing a restaurant career?
Dino and I share the same passion for the industry; creating and delivering a product that not only touches on taste but on the over all experience our guests receive. We wanted to elevate the Greek food dining scene by creating a contemporary Greek eatery that touches on those two principles. Kentro is at the forefront of the Greek dining segment. With that said, we look forward to expanding the Kentro brand.
If I was in front of a firing squad, I would first order a Grey Goose & Soda! After that, I would request my Chief Culinary Officer/partner Dino to make me my two favorite dishes, Paithakia and Zucchini Keftedes, or any one of the Greek dishes found at Kentro. Each and everyone of them are amazing!
Kentro’s success is attributed to a strong balance of business savvy, charisma and hedonism. The restrained decor countered with the decadent flavor profiles make for a unique and memorable dining experience. Their gracious hospitality will make you feel as though you have become an adopted member of the big, Greek dining family. In the immortal words of Telly Savalas, who loves you baby?
Kentro: Food for the Gods!
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