I love Greek food but it’s not as prevalent as Italian or even other Mediterranean restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, so we rarely get an opportunity to get into a Greek frame of mine. While on an adventure south to Los Gatos California recently, we decided to put Dio Deka to the test, a one Michelin star restaurant that specializes in fine Hellenic cuisine.
Located in Hotel Los Gatos, which has its own unique history right in the heart of downtown Los Gatos, the birth of Dio Deka is the result of five Greek restauranteurs: Nikos Kalouris, Vagelis Papazisis, Yiani Dulles, Julian Platis, and Petros Katopodis. Apparently, the name Dio Deka stems from the restaurant’s address, 210, which reads Dio Deka in Greek. Coincidentally, 210 also happens to be the area code in Athens, another cool factoid. Here’s another fun quirk about how they run the restaurant, which we love. In line with Greek hospitality, all of the owners also work as servers in addition to their management duties, as a way of making their guests feel at “home”.
Truth be told, that was the case with us. After our main course but before our dessert (if I recall the order correctly), Nikos came over and joined us for a drink. He poured a bottle of Italian red to break things up a bit from our classic northern California Cabernet choices from earlier in the evening. Since we opted for red meat (they’re known for their steaks), we went with big bold reds all night long.
Presentation is part of that Greek hospitality, starting with a simple taste they serve before we even placed our order. Rosemary twigs are part of their shtick and all I can say before we even start is BRAVO to executive chef William Roberts and sous chefs George Paleologos and Craig Ponkey.
Those who read enough of my restaurant write-ups will know that I’m a huge fan of salads and regardless of what else is on the appetizer menu, one of them must be a salad — this girl needs her greens!! On their Chef’s Showcase, I passed up the Sonoma County Foie Gras Terrine, which I now regret, largely because I wanted to save room for steak. Their terrine is made up of strawberry black pepper gelee, pistachio, yogurt and mint. Also in the Showcase selection is something they refer to as Fragokota, which is essentially Guniea Fowl with Greek wedding-rice of Delta asparagus, Aquerello rissoto, herbs and flowers. WOW is the right word!
Getting back to my salad, I kept it simple despite the mouthwatering options above. They offered a traditional Greek salad of course with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, Kalamata olives, romaine and feta, but I went for the Ascolibri, which is a Chicory and Citrus Salad which they toss in a buttermilk-yogurt dressing and serve with Hazelnuts and Kefalograveria Cheese. I of course, added some rosemary to the salad and a little extra yogurt – oh so yum!!
While the photo doesn’t do it justice, I wanted to mention one of their more unusual sides: Mesquite grilled romaine hearts — let’s just say that the smokey Mesquite flavor just “works”. Also worth trying is the Orzo with burnt butter and Myzithra cheese, creamed spinach with lemon zest and nutmeg, their Carmamelized mushrooms and the Garlic and Rosemary French fries.
While there were so many Greek specialties on the appetizer list I wanted to try, it’s hard to pass up classic Baked Lamb Meatballs when they’re offered. While the lamb was delicious, it was really the Ouzo-tomato sauce with fresh Myzithra cheese that had me at hello! This dish won both of us over in fact, and on a future visit to the restaurant, we might just opt for four appetizers and a bottle of their 2011 Barolo Guido Porro from Piedmont Italy and call it a night!
Other apps worth mentioning include their Mesquite-grilled Octopus with romesco sauce, lemon vinaigrette and hazelnuts, the slow-cooked Pork-Robs rubbed with Greek spices, Attiki honey and lemon and sour cherries with Ouzo and the Strata, which is a Delta Asparagus with grilled Haloumi cheese, soft poached egg and herb bread crumbs.
If you want to go classically Greek, go for the Dolmathakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves) with a braised short rib, mushroom puree, crispy mushrooms and an egg lemon sauce, or their Spanakotiropita, which I was addicted to when I lived in Greece for my short stint in my early twenties. Yup, it’s those crispy phyllo pastry with Greek sheep and goat milk cheese and baby spinach — it’s to die for if you’ve never had it.
Let’s move onto their steaks since we were told by a few locals to not miss out on their Bone-in Filet Mignon, which our waiter who has been working there since day one, agreed. We couldn’t say no to this rare 16 ounce cut of USDA Prime which was naturally aged for 30 days. It had that WOW taste quality combined with extreme tenderness and I’d recommend it medium rare. We also went for their Veal Porterhouse, also 16 ounces but of milk-fed “pink” veal steak. As tender if not moreso than the Filet Mignon, it melted on our tongues! Combine both with some of their caramelized mushrooms which they sauteed with Greek herbs and a little sauteed greens, and you’ll be in heaven for the remainder of the night.
They get their beef from Stockyards of Chicago and rather than use gas to grill it, they grill the steaks on Mesquite charcoal, which is known for imparting a subtle Mesquite flavor into the meat. T’was a treat and we noticed the difference!
You’re probably wondering how we had space for dessert at all, but our waiter insisted we try the Yiaourti, a classic Greek yogurt (which is thicker than traditional yogurt), with fruit, Attiki honey and a sesame seed Pastelli. While all of the desserts were scrumptious, I found my fork going back to the Yiaourti again and again, and….long after I was full.
I tend to avoid heavy carb choices whenever possible, but the gentlemen at our table couldn’t care less and wasn’t about to leave the restaurant without sampling their Greek beignets or otherwise called Loukoumathes in Greece. They dip them in thyme-honey syrup with cinnamon and nuts and they were apparently so delish that they decided to finish them off.
They offer a Greek yogurt Panna Cotta with strawberries, rosemary short bread and yogurt sorbet as well as something they refer to as SOKOLATA, which is a flourless chocolate almond cake and whenever a dark chocolate something is on the menu, Anthony always obliges. They serve it with Brandied milk-chocolate mousse, caramelized bananas (they were let’s just say outa this world) and my absolute favorite of the whole dish — their homemade vanilla bean ice cream, which was so pure and so fresh, you wanted dessert to last all night!
The dining room itself has a very Mediterranean flare to it and while the below is taken during the day, imagine a dimly lit room for dinner, where it feels like a cross between classic fine dining and your favorite dinner party in your own home: warm, inviting and just lovely….I’d recommend a table up against the window if you book in advance, which I’d suggest — we were there on a Thursday night and it was packed! They seem to attract a lot of locals from Los Gatos and nearby towns and cities, including Saratoga, Campbell and San Jose. While the hotel is under separate ownership, it’s attached to the historical hotel where we stayed that night, so combining the two would make for a nice romantic weekend getaway from either San Jose or San Francisco.
We’re fans and would definitely return!
Be sure to read our write-up on Hotel Los Gatos as well.