The dinner was a showcase for Dimitris Christoforidis, owner of the Nice n Easy restaurants in Greece, and his chef/partner, Christos Athanasiadis. It also launched Culina's new private dining room, Il Posto.
While in Los Angeles, Christoforidis is scouting locations for a restaurant he plans to open next year. No stranger to the city, he once had Sanctuary, an upscale, celebrity-haunted restaurant and lounge on Robertson Boulevard in Beverly Hills.
The Nice n Easy restaurants, named for a Frank Sinatra song and not the Clairol hair color, are in Athens, Mykonos and Kifisia. They specialize in fresh, organic, local food, the same sort of food in demand here now.
To show how aware Christoforidis is of eating trends in Los Angeles, each dish on the menu at Culina had a vegan alternative. The vegan Greek salad left out a quail egg and crumbled feta. The other ingredients, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, baby zucchini and kalamata olives, weren't a problem.
The plate that started the dinner presented tuna tartare (beetroot tartare for vegans) with quinoa tabouli, avocado, turnip slices folded into cones, micro greens, chives, olive oil and drops of yogurt (above).
Instead of grilled octopus in the next course, vegans got marinated fennel. The octopus came with fava bean spread, bottarga, tomato, pickled onion and micro greens (above).
Christoforidis was so taken with the small, round Indian eggplants that he found in a local market that he had them stuffed as the vegan alternative to lamb loin. The other components, except for gravy with the lamb (above), were the same, a smooth eggplant puree, red pepper coulis and red wine. On top of the lamb are an eggplant slice and a green onion.
All of the dishes were prepared with a Greek extra virgin olive oil, Gaea. Greek wines were scheduled to go with the dinner but didn't arrive in time, so a California red and white were quickly substituted.
It was almost impossible to decide what to have for dessert. Who could resist a vanilla chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream and berries? That was the vegan option. The main choice was Greek yogurt mousse with honey jelly, candied pecans, raspberry coulis, berries and currants (above).
This is the sort of food you would get at Nice n Easy restaurants in Greece, but over there, the taste would be better, Christoforidis said. That's because his own farms supply the restaurants. They're on the island of Mykonos, a small area with good soil, he said.
Christoforidis will no doubt find sources he likes here, but perhaps not one for water buffalo. That means you won't be able to taste rice pudding made with buffalo milk, a Nice n Easy dessert that employs milk from his own farm animals.