Niko’s Trapezi: Yes, “Apologize” for Serving Delicious Food!

Niko's Trapezi

No sooner had we polished off every speck of our mezzes at Niko’s Trapezi than our waitress bustled over to clear the plates in anticipation of our main course. The conversation went something like this:

Moi:  “As you can see, we hated them.”

Waitress:  “Yes, I can see that.”

Moi:  “I’m sure we’re going to hate the moussaka.”

Waitress:  “Well, then, I’ll apologize for that in advance!”

LOL!

Actually, I should apologize for not asking her name. She was a total peach! Efficient, personable, and with a wicked sense of humor.

This was our second visit to Niko’s. (Click here to see all the photos from this meal.) A taverna which also calls itself a Greek grill, Niko’s opened in April of last year, in a Long Branch, NJ, strip mall one block away from the beach along the Atlantic Ocean. I learned about it from Chowhound, where it immediately received a boatload of positive reviews, including from several Hounds whose opinions I trust.

Branzino

We finally went there in July. (Click here to see all the photos from that meal.) Since there had been raves about the whole fish, of course, we ordered the whole branzino, a fish we love. One bite and we instantly became members of the rave fraternity. Perfectly grilled, it was succulent and flavorful. A little skirt of lemon provided a zesty kick. Wonderful roasted lemon potatoes were a terrific accompaniment.

Moussaka

This second visit, it was hard not to have that wonderful branzino again. However, we decided we’d try something different, so we chose to share the aforementioned moussaka. The generous portion lay on a carpet of sauce. The very flavorful ground beef was piled atop a bottom layer of eggplant. I’m not sure exactly where the potatoes were positioned, but they were in there. The bechamel, lightly browned, was excellent. The sauce was delicious. Overall, this was a fabulous moussaka, one of the best we’ve ever had. That said, I do have one teensy niggle. When it arrived at the table, there was steam rising from the top. I cut it in half and gave M his portion. Then, I dug into my half and found that sections of it were hot while others were lukewarm, surprising given the stream of steam I saw. M said it was not a problem with his half, so why it happened with mine is a mystery.

Olives

As soon as patrons are seated, they are presented with a little dish of excellent assorted olives and a basket of grilled slices of bread lightly brushed with olive oil. Good things to munch on while deciding what to order from the extensive menu of cold and hot mezzes.

Melitzanosalata

Being the eggplant addict that I am, I can never resist the eggplant salads that appear on mezzes menus. So, we ordered it both times. I like the somewhat coarse texture of the eggplant at Niko’s, and the fresh, chopped vegetables that garnish it provide agreeable crunch. It is accompanied by some of the best pita we’ve had anywhere. Served warm, it is light and exceedingly fluffy.

Tiropitakia

We’ve also had a couple of other items from mezzes list. The first time, from the cold side, the dolmades, and from the hot, the triopitakia. I don’t care for stuffed grape leaves, but M likes them, and he thought these were just fine. But I do love phyllo stuffed with feta, and the large triangular-shaped pastries at Niko’s were deep-fried perfectly with not a hint of oiliness.

Piperies

This time, we chose a different item from the hot mezzes, the piperies — two large peppers (not sure what kind they were) stuffed with feta. Served warm, the peppers had a pleasant char from being grilled. They were soft without being mushy, and the cheese was creamy without being runny. I was really pleased that Chef Niko had removed the seeds from the peppers though I’m mystified as to how he accomplished it because the caps were still on the peppers. “How did he do that?” I asked our wonderful waitress. She replied with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, “He is full of tricks.”

Niko's Trapezi

The space at Niko’s is fairly large with the semi-open kitchen at the rear. Greek decorations on the walls relieve the pleasant plainness. Both our visits were at off-hours. The first was a late dinner, and a few other tables were occupied. We had intended this second time to be lunch, but by the time we got there, it was well after normal lunch hours, so we decided to make it an early “early bird” dinner. Hey, we’re retirees, so why not? This time, there was only one other table occupied, and they left about halfway through our meal. But according to the reviews, even when the joint is jumpin’, service is as friendly and attentive as it was for us.

Galakatobouriko

Of course, there was no way I was leaving Niko’s without having dessert. My favorite Greek dessert, galaktabouriko, feeds my fetish for phyllo. (How’s that for alliteration?) The first time it was so delectable that I couldn’t resist having it again. It’s the perfect blending of a thick layer of luscious custard between thin, crisp sheets of pastry, drizzled with just the right amount of honey. M was happy to share it, but the portion is so generous that I took home a third of it.

Until Niko’s came along, the few Greek restaurants in our area of NJ ranged from mediocre to horrible, the latter being a chain called It’s Greek to Me. We tried it once, and once was once too often! The mezzes we ordered were so disgusting that we canceled our main course order and skedaddled out of there. How that chain stays in business really is Greek to me!

Happily, no such question arises with regard to Niko’s, which has the perfect combination of delicious, generously-portioned food; warm, attentive service; pleasant atmospherics; and moderate prices. I am looking forward to going back and accepting more “apologies.”

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7 Responses to “Niko’s Trapezi: Yes, “Apologize” for Serving Delicious Food!”

  1. ulterior epicure Says:

    1. re: “Piperies” – I assume there were no seeds inside. Therefore, they must have run a slit lengthwise and dug out all the seeds, stuffed it with cheese, grilled it, and then served them with the seam-side down.

    2. re: “Moussaka” – I hate to say it, but when food is cooked through and one side is steaming hot whilst the other side is lukewarm (or cool), often, a microwave has been employed. Or, you and M have different minds about temperature.

  2. thewizardofroz Says:

    @ u.e., Re: the piperies. Yes, there were no seeds inside. (That sentence construction reminds me of the old song, “Yes, We Have No Bananas!” lol) I considered the idea of a slit, but when I cut into the pepper, it didn’t seem to come apart that way. But, as usual, you’re probably right.

    Re: the moussaka. Although M and I do sometimes differ about temperature opinions, in this case, I think you’ve solved the “mystery.” We were sitting right next to the kitchen area, and I now recall seeing something — most probably, our moussaka — being placed in the microwave.

  3. Deb Van D Says:

    You know, I think the moussaka at Niko’s is first rate. But I have the same experience with the uneven temperature of the dish. Delicious, but not always piping hot through and through. I had a similar experience recently with the pastitsio; very tasty, good bechamel, but not uniform to temp. It might be worth a mention to the server (and I mean to try it). Maybe they can refine their microwave technique.

  4. thewizardofroz Says:

    Hi Deb,

    Welcome!

    I agree about alerting the server. It’s a shame to have Niko’s splendid dishes spoiled by something that can so easily be averted. I’ve had the same problem at home when using the micro reheat setting, so to make sure dishes are piping hot, I run them through reheat twice. Definitely does the trick.

    I’m so pleased that you’ve visited my blog. Don’t be stranger! 🙂

  5. Deb Van D Says:

    Hi Roz,

    There really is an Art of the Microwave, less heat more often yields a better result. It takes longer which may be an issue in a restaurant, but I think a few gentle words here and there might get their attention. We’ll give it our combined effort.

    Good work on your blog, you’re always a good read.
    Deb

  6. thewizardofroz Says:

    Hi Deb,

    Thanks for the kind words. I always look forward to your posts on Mouthfuls and Chowhound. I think we tend to see eye-to-eye on many restaurants.

    In the cause of combining our efforts, perhaps, M and I should meet up sometime with you and Lex (I know he’s also Bob Martinez on Chowhound) at Niko’s. 🙂

  7. Deb Van D Says:

    Hi Roz,

    I do think we have similar opinions on many places–I feel like we’ve known each other for years, come to that. And neither of us is starry-eyed about restaurants, particularly those around here. Niko’s is simple and good, with care taken over the food. That sets it apart.

    Sure, let’s do. Our local dining schedule is pretty much on a three-week rotation, when I have to work on a Saturday (as I did yesterday). Maybe we can find one that suits us all. And Bob is already looking forward to his next meal at Niko’s.

    D

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