“You can’t spell it, but it eats pretty good, don’t it?”
-Red Blow in “The Natural”
With all the restaurants that have (or are soon-to-be) opened in New Canaan over the past year, one glaringly absent cuisine has been Greek. And while New Canaan will never be Astoria, Queens, its newest eatery, Kouzina, is an excellent representative of an oft-overlooked and underappreciated gastronomy.
The brainchild of couple Brian Herlihy and Gina Douvas, Kouzina (Greek for “kitchen”) is part-restaurant and part-market, located at the corner of Forest Street and Locust Avenue in the space previously occupied by Griffin Ford. Now housing Mediterranean specialties instead of domestic autos, Douvas seamlessly brings the homespun feel of her mother’s Greek cooking to the masses.
The menu’s focus is on heartiness at Kouzina, as dishes are rich and of ample portions. Appetizers include a terrific grilled octopus ($14), nicely accented with olive oil and lemon juice; tender, flavorful meatballs ($8); kolokithokeftedes ($10), a flavorful mixture of fried shredded zucchini and feta cheese served with a refreshing tzatziki sauce. Avgolemono ($3/cup, $5/bowl) is a rich, creamy chicken orzo soup with strong, complimentary notes of lemon. Those with an adventurous spirit should try the saganaki ($10), kefalograviera cheese flambé, pan fired with Metaxa brandy. The bold flavor of the cheese is nicely complemented by the sweetness of the brandy, and the finish of lemon juice was a perfect palate cleanser. And the spanakopita ($6) was a terrific rendition, with the flavors of spinach and feta bursting through the crisp, baked filo dough.
Familiar Greek dishes such as soulvaki and gyro ($8 – sandwich, $11 – platter w/fries) are nicely executed at Kouzina and are solid, safe entrée choices, but you’d be remiss not to try the moussaka ($14), a wondrous eggplant, zucchini, potato, and ground beef “lasagna” of sorts. The pastitsio ($14) was another winner, as macaroni and sautéed ground beef alternated layers, topped with a rich and subtle béchamel sauce. Guests can also mix and match as Kouzina offers several of the aforementioned dishes as tapas ($6 each).
Desserts include a great baklava ($6), and we were excited to see galaktoboureko ($6) - rich, warm custard baked in filo and topped with a decadent sugar-honey glaze. There is also a children’s menu, which includes chicken or pork souvlaki on a skewer ($4), pigs-in-a-blanket ($6), and pasta with meatballs and sauce ($8).
Despite being open for only a week, coupled with the linguistic challenges the menu inevitably brings, we found the service to be very adept and complimentary of the home-style food. The interior is clean and sleek, with a handful of low and high tables, a glass case filled with prepped dishes and salads available for takeout, and a shelf stocked with Greek specialties, including olives, honey, capers and, of course, olive oil. Behind the counter are artisanal breads and an impressive coffee maker, from which emanates a terrific iced Greek coffee, the frappe ($3.50). The area in front of the restaurant is an attractive, spacious, sun-drenched courtyard, ideal for people watching and dining al fresco.
Kouzina does not yet have a liquor license, so guests are encouraged to BYO. Rosé or a heavier white such as Gewürztraminer would pair best with much of the menu, or perhaps a lighter-bodied red such as an Oregon pinot noir. There is no corkage fee.
So as New Canaan’s culinary scene continues to evolve with some big names and grandiose plans on the horizon, it seems only appropriate that this little Greek restaurant has stolen some of their mythic thunder, as Kouzina is off to a fast start.
32C Forest St. (Corner of Forest St. & Locust Ave.)
New Canaan, CT
Hours: Tue - Thu, 11am – 8pm; Fri - Sat, 11am – 9pm; Sun, 12 – 5pm; Closed Monday.