MEDITERRANEAN FARE COMES TO SANTA MONICA
Amongst the hustle and bustle found in Santa Monica where beach life intermingles with fun in the sun, fine dining and surreal SoCal living is Inotheke, a contemporary new dining destination from Carolos Tomazos that showcases modern Greek cuisine specifically influenced by the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.
“I grew up in a food loving culture in Cyprus where food was everywhere and everything,” says Tomazos. “Everyone cooked, while perpetually breaking bread together often and playfully competing in an unspoken spirited game of who prepares what dish better. This is the kind of food that makes you feel good—great ingredients and clean, healthy cooking. I try not to overthink it.”
Step into Inotheke and you will find a modern and bright interior lined with floor to ceiling glass windows that wrap around the storefront. Clean whites and earth tones converge in a casual and contemporary setting where an open kitchen shows where the magic happens.
During our recent visit for dinner we started with a nice glass of white wine as we relaxed in the chill beach setting contemplating our imminent Mediterranean feast. The Inotheke menu runs the gamut from crisp salads and succulent meats to intricate seafood offerings in addition to a handful of traditional Greek dishes with modern twists.
We started with the classic Greek salad with tomato, cucumber, pepper, feta, onion and olive, however, this is a different and unique take on a favorite dish served with a chunky cut of cheese and no lettuce. Does that still make it a salad?
The menu is pretty seafood heavy and the Grilled Calamari Salad with cannellini beans and fennel is light and served with nice pieces of calamari. Again, this isn’t a traditional salad and the dish is slightly bitter as it’s pickled but still spot on.
Another great light plate is the Oven Roasted Beet Salad mixed with arugula, goat cheese, red onion, dill and lemon vinaigrette. I just loved the gold beets. This is a wonderful (more) traditional item that stands out for being light and fresh.
If you’re looking for more filling dishes, the Greek-specialty-influenced dish, Fava Dip Bottarga, served with yellow split peas, thyme and scallions, is a solid choice. This is a terrific dip but it needs to be served with more pita so you can soak up every delicious drop, but even better than the dip is the Potted Duck with walnuts and orange cardamom marmalade. This isn’t an entrée, as I originally thought, but a pâté and this spread is out of this world.
There are also crispy Cod Fritters served with Skordalia that makes for a great fish dish. It is very garlic forward but very tasty. Likewise, the Shrimp “Saganaki” is served with tomato sauce, feta and ouzo and is fresh tasting and simply delicious.
If you’re looking for meat dishes, there are some really special menu items to choose from. Our favorites included the Pork Belly “Kolokasi” prepared with taro, coriander and spinach. The meat is so tender and the sauce is divine.
Not to be outdone, the ever-succulent Pork “Youvarlakia” with wild rice and lemon sauce is delicious. Think of this as a meatball dish and make sure to soak up every drop of the wonderful lemony sauce.
The Lamb & Orzo with tomato and Parmesan is another winning entrée item. The lamb was simply amazing and so tender. While I personally prefer rice to orzo, that’s hardly a knock on this selection. It’s solid.
The Short Rib “Stifado” braised with shallots and red wine is so full of flavor and so tender. The attention to detail the kitchen painstakingly goes through with these dishes is not lost on guests. How can it be?
If you’re looking for some healthy greens to go with your meal, the steamed Brocollini with lemon, olive oil and garlic is wonderful.
Now if you don’t plan to sample the entire menu as we gluttons did, then start with the Broccolini, even over the beet salad, and order the Lamb & Orzo, and the Pork Belly “Kolokasi” if you’re meat eaters this is. That’s a solid, crowd-pleasing dinner that will delight and won’t break the bank.
While the name Inotheke, which translates to “wine case,” rest assured that great wines are on hand. Tomazos offers over 20 varietals by the glass and a wine List of with over 60 eclectic selections by the bottle, along with four rotating draft beers and 12 bottled beers.
I want people to come here, be comfortable while enjoying our food and drinks at a good value, and feel welcome above all,” declares Tomazos.
Inotheke, located at 606 Broadway Avenue in Santa Monica, is open daily for Lunch from 11:30am to 3pm and Dinner from 5:30pm to 10pm. Call 310-458-3366.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography By: Acuna-Hansen