It’s All Greek at Dio Deka

A gorgeous blueberry-white chocolate parfait at Dio Deka.

Well, except for the chef.

Marty Cattaneo admits he’d never really cooked Greek food before taking over the head chef position at the high-end Dio Deka in Los Gatos nearly two years ago.

But that didn’t stop this talented chef who has cooked with David Kinch at Manresa in Los Gatos, Jeremy Fox at Ubuntu in Napa and helped in the development of the cookbook, “Mourad: New Moroccan” (Artisan) by Mourad Lahlou of Aziza in San Francisco. In fact, if you catch a rerun of “Iron Chef America” on the Food Network, you’ll spot Cattaneo in the background as one of Lahlou’s sous chefs in his battle.

Because of the similarities between Moroccan and Greek cuisines, Cattaneo felt comfortable enough stepping into this challenging role. Plus, it helped that he studied every Greek cookbook he could get his hands on.

He doesn’t consider what he does at Dio Deka traditional Greek food by any means. But after getting a chance to experience his food as a recent guest of the restaurant, I can attest that it’s downright delicious and inspired, nevertheless.

A peek into the open-kitchen on a busy night.

After weathering a few chef changes over the past five years, Dio Deka remains as popular as ever. Even on a Wednesday night, the dining room was packed. There were even two private parties going on at the same time. Located in the Hotel Los Gatos, it’s a loud, lively restaurant, but with quiet, subtle touches like the fresh rosemary sprig tucked into your napkin at the table.

The menu at Dio Deka is an interesting mix. It’s part steakhouse that serves up USDA Prime grilled simply over mesquite. Even before Cattaneo started there, Kinch raved about the steaks at Dio Deka, so you know they’ve got to be pretty special.

So is the Greek side of the menu. Some of the signature items have been on the menu since the restaurant opened, including keftethakia, lamb meatballs flavored with a salty Greek cheese, and plevrakia, mesquite-grilled baby back pork riblets that are super tender with an almost Asian five-spice flavor from Greek spices, Asian pear and ouzo. Order the pikilia ($16 per person), the appetizer medley, to sample both of those, along with beef cheeked-stuffed dolmathes and dainty crisp phyllo triangles of spanakotiropita that are filled with spinach, and Greek sheep and goat milk cheeses.

An appetizer sampler plate of the restaurant's most popular small bites

Warm, wonderful flatbread heady with plenty of oregano.

Warm wedges of oregano-flecked flatbread arrive at the table for dunking in olive oil.

This is the place to venture into Greek wines, with so many offered on the wine list. A glass of Malagousia Gerovassiliou, Epanomi, Makedonia, Greece, 2010 ($13) had bright minerality and just enough oak to round it out.

Octopus ($16) is a specialty. It’s charred, leaving the exterior crunchy but the interior tender and meaty. Romesco sauce adds a hit of spiciness and toasted hazelnuts add a rich nuttiness.

Charred, tender octopus.

Melons in various preparations in a summery salad.

Melopeponi ($10) is a study in melons. Raw raw, compressed and pickled, they are sweet, juicy, tangy and just a bit savory from manouri cheese and chocolate mint.

Tsipoura ($34) is a whole Mediterranean dorade served on the bone with the head. Seasoned with salt and olive oil, then grilled over mesquite, it reminds you of just how good such a simple preparation of fish can be.A simple, spectacular whole dorade.

Ippoglossos ($34) is an inventive preparation of halibut — served with lightly cooked tomato, lipstick-red sweet Jimmy Nardello peppers and caramelized feta, which gives the whole dish an unexpected creaminess.

Halibut with sweet peppers and creamy cheese.

Scallops with citrus, farro and jungle peanuts.

Ktenia ($32) brings a generous portion of huge, plump diver scallops, seared until beautifully caramelized on the outside. Underneath, farro with caramelized yogurt, charred corn and a dash of Meyer lemon. Strewn on top are jungle peanuts from the Amazon that are smaller than domestic ones.

There are a range of side dishes to choose from, too. I already want to try to replicate the orzo ($8) at home. Cooked with burnt butter and Myzithra cheese, it’s extraordinarly rich, toasty and nutty tasting.

An orzo side dish you'll want to copy at home.

Dessert goes way beyond baklava, though you can enjoy a fine one of those, if you like. At the server’s suggestion, I went for the lefki sokolatina ($10), a parfait of sorts of white chocolate and blueberries with passion fruit granita and blueberry jam. Rather than layered in a tall glass, this parfait was unmolded on a plate, a beautiful drum-shaped creation in white. Cold, with the sweetness tempered by just enough tartness, the parfait was like so much of the food at Dio Deka — not traditional Greek, but something all together wonderful and memorable on its own.

More: A Visit to Aziza

And: Chef Mourad Lahlou’s Prawn-Kumquat Skewers

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Date: Friday, 7. September 2012 5:25
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15 comments

  1. 1

    Lovely! I particularly like the presentation and bowls.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. 2

    Oooh, the octopus and dorade look especially tempting. :)

  3. 3

    That looks like an amazing feast! I’ve never seen Greek food so upscale around here (mostly just home-style). Everything looks so healthy too with the emphasis on fish.

  4. 4

    If he ever puts his beet salad back on the menu, don’t miss it – easily the most beautiful and delicious salad I’d ever had! The Greek yogurt dessert is fantastic, also.

  5. 5

    Claudette: I am definitely going to keep my eye out for that beet salad. Sounds fabulous! And I’ve enjoyed the Greek yogurt dessert a few times. It’s so simple and really showcases the creamy, thick, tart yogurt. Makes you realize how decadent yogurt can be.

  6. 6

    Oh goodness. You just game me another good reason to visit Northern CA sooner! I don’t often eat Greek but these look scrumptious. Can’t wait to try.

  7. 7

    I’ve had the riblets a few times, sublime!

  8. 8

    It’s so interesting how Greek food there is different to the Greek food here which I’m sure is different to Greek food in Greece! Although I’m sure they’re all delicious :D

  9. 9

    Ooo! Wow. If the boyfriend (who is greek) and I ever go to SF together…this is the first place we are headed! (After bi-rite that is)

  10. 10

    Gosh that dorade looks great! And I really like the idea of this restaurant – combined steakhouse and Greek restaurant? Great for entertaining – something both for the meat eaters and the people who want something different. Good review – thank you.

  11. 11

    I always think of myself as not being a fan of Greek food, but after seeing these photos I must change my mind. I think I’ve had a few too many disappointing Greek restaurant meals, but I know this restaurant wouldn’t be a disappointment. Everything looks amazing!

  12. 12

    Wow what a feast!! We have not eaten much Greek food but after reading your post I am ready to try some more!!

  13. 13

    That looks fabulous! I love the reinvented Greek flavours.

  14. 14

    I had the orzo the last time I went there and thought the same thing as I was eating it, “I have to try this at home”! I haven’t tried it yet. Will you please post it when you get the recipe worked out?

  15. 15

    Frances G: For sure! I’ll have to ask Chef Marty if you can just boil the orzo, drain, then mix it with browned butter and crumble the cheese on top. Be a great side dish with so many things.

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