We headed to Kleos early on a Friday night before a play, looking forward to exploring their dinner menu again after a satisfying meal a few weeks earlier. When dining downtown, Kleos is an easy pick: there’s something for everyone on the menu, and it’s casual enough for any attire but still feels like a special meal. Kleos owners Lauren Lynch and Tom Bovis also own Rosalina, a popular Italian spot just a few blocks away. Though the cuisines are different, the dishes, ingredients and platings at both restaurants straddle the line between home cooking and more upscale restaurant fare. At Kleos, the well-worn wood and marble tables, dishcloth napkins, olive branches in vases, blue accents and large windows evoke a temperate day in the Mediterranean, dining alfresco in a light sea breeze.
Kleos’ cocktail menu pays homage to Greek mythology with selections like Labours of Herakles and Poseidon’s Poison. My husband braved The Wrath of Hera, a concoction of Metaxa, Ouzo and passion fruit juice with soda. Hera’s wrath at her husband Zeus might have been tempered by a strong but easy drinking cocktail like this. Metaxa and Ouzo are both Greek spirits, the former a brandy/wine blend and the latter a clear, anise-laced aperitif. I opted for a demure Sour Cherry Juice, an unusual and delicious alcohol-free option.
The start of a meal at Kleos includes bread and olive oil for dipping, a special import from the owners’ family in Greece. If you enjoy its fruity aroma as much as I did, you can purchase a bottle to bring home.
The Dip Tasting is a good start whether you’re a party of two or eight. The five dips, scooped attractively onto a platter, are served with vegetables and fluffy grilled pita triangles. I had to restrain myself from monopolizing my favorite, the Tirokafteri, a spicy feta dip, served along with classics like Tzatziki (cucumber yogurt dip), Santorini Fava (made from yellow split peas), Pantzarosalata (a stunning purple beet dip with walnuts) and Melitzanosalata (a smoky eggplant dip). If this sounds like too big a commitment, the dips can also be ordered individually as sides.
Though this was a hearty start for two, we ordered the Saganaki Kleos as well. Saganaki may bring to mind the over-the-top presentation of a flaming slab of cheese at many Greek restaurants. Kleos’ version doesn’t involve a performance, but it’s every bit as good: Kasseri, a fresh sheep milk cheese, is wrapped in phyllo dough, pan-seared, and topped with a drizzle of Greek honey and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. This dish was attractively presented in a miniature cast-iron pan and served with a grilled lemon, another touch we recognized from Rosalina.
For our mains, we chose two of Kleos’ heavy hitters. I had the lamb shank, a large, slow-roasted shank that was, as promised, falling off the bone. The lamb was subtly flavored with garlic and various spices including cinnamon and served on top of a generous portion of Hilopitas, tiny square egg noodles, which were buttery with just a hint of cheese.
My husband had the Crispy Pork Belly, served with Horta (steamed greens), fries and more of the spicy pepper feta spread. Pork belly can be heavy, and we agreed that the fairly large amount of meat might be a challenge for daintier diners, though we know plenty who would welcome the abundance.
We concluded our meal with two desserts. The Greek donuts, or Loukoumades, were golf ball-sized and round, freshly fried and drizzled in a sweet syrup and chopped nuts. The yogurt parfait featured extra-rich Greek yogurt layered with sour cherry and topped with chopped pistachios and honey.
I checked my watch at the end of the meal, worried that we would be late for our play. Though it felt like we had taken a long, relaxing Mediterranean journey, we still had plenty of time.
250 Westminster Street • 443-4083