BEST GREEK RESTAURANT (1998)
Even in the dead of winter, there's something summery about Gardens of Salonica. The tinkling fountain keeps the air misty and fresh, the flourishing plants make a little miniature conservatory. Appetizers such as skordalia, a puréed potato and garlic dip, are pure summer too, enhanced simply with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and grilled pita. The tzatziki is vibrant with fresh dill and cucumber. Even the ubiquitous Greek salad, filled with hand-torn romaine and dressed with a vinaigrette made with fresh herbs, says Mediterranean summer (as opposed to northern winter, as so many pale iceberg salads do). An entrée of Orzo Arni, braised lamb simmered with rice-shape pasta in a tomato sauce and served with a sprinkling of grated kasseri cheese, is a lovable hot-dish, and once you pile on mezzes like calamata olives, tyro (a feta salad), and anginares (artichoke hearts in olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and garlic), you'll be feeling pretty sunny yourself.