The bright orange and red decor at Elia isn’t typical Greek, but the warm, familial atmosphere certainly is. The elderly proprietor, the mingling manager, and a talkative chef create a Greek personality, though in truth Elia is only a Greek operation on Thursday nights (when we visited). The rest of the time it’s a Mediterranean restaurant with a Greek owner, evidenced by the small, first-floor concession selling Greek olive oils, honey, and several brands of ouzo. The standard, almost-fancy menu puts casual pastas and risottos next to more aspirational creations like sea bass fricasee with lemon sabayon.
On Greek night, however, we tried a smoked eggplant salad, which was less of a salad and more of a deliciously smoky eggplant and olive oil puree keeping a few undressed leaves and sliced tomato company. Elia does simple well – squid stuffed with feta cheese and tomato is a faithful Med dish, cooked just right, and they’ve got the roasted but rare lamb rack down pat. The food starts to trip-up when it gets a bit fussy – what was that pot of lemon flavored soft cheese with the lamb for? – and sure enough, complications arose with a rabbit stifado, a sort of Greek pot roast. The cinnamon in the dish was overwhelming, the braising liquid too tart, and the combination left us longing for simpler times. Or simpler dishes, at least, like dessert. But it’s tough to stretch to a third course at prices like this. For a relatively simple cuisine, Elia’s prices feel a bit inflated. Nevermind – the rest of the family here are wealthy Gubei suburbanites.