A wonderful dining experience in all aspects. After dropping off your car with a delightful parking valet, you walk through the charming lobby of the Hotel Los Gatos, across a lovely courtyard and then into Dio Deka.
The ambiance is casual and relaxed. I do remember however, from an earlier visit on a weekend, that things were quite busy and bustling and the noise level was a bit bothersome. But this is a weeknight and all is good. There is an open kitchen which always adds to the warmth of the dining experience. Our server was charming and quite knowledgeable - she was Greek and so we were able to hear how some of the dishes we thought we knew how to say are supposed to be pronounced.
The food was delicious. Even our marinated olives starter was tastier than the norm. The mussel appetizer, Mithia - mussels steamed in ouzo and served with crispy fried olives and croutons - was served with the mussels already out of the shell. Excellent, excellent dish. The celery root soup – Hortosoupa – was so tasty we asked the server if she would ask the chef for the ingredients. The chef actually came out and filled us in on how he makes it. (See below) The Sonoma duck breast, Papia, was also memorable - slowly cooked Sonoma duck breast and confit of duck leg, tiny radishes, goat myzithra (a type of cheese) and crispy polenta. There is an extensive wine list and we wanted to try a Greek wine so chose the Assyrtiko Argyros 2010. It was an excellent dry white accompaniment to our meal and we thought a very nice wine at this price point. ($54 in the restaurant, about $25 retail).
Dessert, usually not my favorite part of the meal, was also memorable. We had the Baklava, which was not too sweet and was served surprisingly with grilled bananas and banana ice cream. I don’t even like banana ice cream but I loved it at Dio Deka with their baklava. Our second dessert (what were we thinking!) was the Bougatsa, a crispy phyllo filled with semolina custard and served alongside spiced wine sorbet and a bitter orange garnish - one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.
Dio Deka is a one star Michelin restaurant. Actually it’s the only Greek restaurant in the US to have a star and in our experience, well deserved.
Hortosoupa is the Greek name for vegetable soup. Dio Dekka spruces theirs up by using celery root instead of potatoes and by the addition of apple, smoked paprika and lemon juice, On checking out different versions of this soup, I found some listed under weight loss programs so I will be making versions of this more often. Dio Dekka also uses the lovely method of presenting the soup bowl with just the garnish and then pouring the celery soup around the garnish from at tableside. Their garnish made the soup: some lovage (from the micro lettuce family - sometimes known as mountain celery), thinly sliced celery, thinly sliced apple, toasted pistachio nuts, lime zest and two oysters leaning against the garnish.
Here is a version of the soup I tried at home and everyone seemed to enjoy. This is such a versatile soup – any vegetable can work with a myriad of different garnishes to make it simple or elegant.
(Puréed Celery Root Soup)
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 lb fresh celery root, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 qt vegetable broth
- Kosher salt
- Ground white pepper (if you have it) or black if not
- Apple – small thin slices, about 1 inch by 1 inch
- Celery – small thin slices, same size as the apple
- Lime zest
- Toasted pistachio nuts
In a soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat and then add the onion and cook until slightly translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the celery root, potato and garlic and cook another few minutes, stirring often.
Add the broth and bring to a boil, then simmer slowly for 15 minutes or so until the celery and potatoes can be pierced with a knife. Don’t let the vegetables get mushy.
Purée in blender or processor until smooth. Return to pan and season with salt and pepper to taste.
When ready to serve, arrange the garnish in a stack in the middle of the soup bowl (apple slices, then celery slices, sprinkled with the lime zest and pistachio nuts and a bit of paprika.) Pour soup around garnish.
(Alternatively, for a simpler and heartier soup, you could use a large crouton (Italian or French bread slice brushed with olive oil and baked til just slightly brown) as the garnish.)