Sky Full of Bacon

More on Taxim

Followup to this post.

Taxim, the back-to-basics Greek restaurant which I reviewed very favorably a few weeks back, has taken a bit of a turn in its relationship to internet food posters.  A number of posters at LTHForum have basically said, ennh, what’s the big deal?  Ronnie Suburban was moderately positive but didn’t agree with the Taxim good, Greektown bad tack many supporters have taken:

I am a big fan of Greektown (the opposite side of the dining universe from Taxim) and have learned over the years how to order for maximum satisfaction when I’m in that part of town. What I’m used to with Greek food is gigantic bold flavors, immaculate freshness and not a hint of daintiness. When I was in Seattle last year, I had a really great meal at Lola (Tom Douglas’ contemporary Greek cafe), so I know I can appreciate this cuisine on a more refined basis. But upon first glance, perhaps Taxim is too distilled for me.

Kennyz was considerably harsher:

…it was with enthusiasm, after having read such wonderful praise here and in the Chicago Reader, that I entered this evening’s meal at Taxim. When I left, my enthusiasm balloon had pretty much completely deflated. Taxim bored me to tears.

You can read all that here.

So I went to Taxim for lunch the other day with another blogger and it was interesting that we came down again on the same two sides of the divide as this thread.  What I found the subtle complexity of down to earth Greek ingredients, he found boring next to the mouth fireworks of Greektown.  What’s odd about that is that we’re each usually a bit toward the other camp– he’s big on the quality of underlying local ingredients, I’m more likely to ding a place for failing to put enough pizzazz into a dish.  But in this case he was the one underwhelmed as I often am, and I was the one admiring the simplicity of earthy cooked lentils and bits of tart Greek cheese, say.

I joked to another food writer that as Greek restaurants go, Taxim was the best Turkish restaurant in town.  I think that’s not so much a joke because chef David Schneider frankly admits the strong Turkish influence (not to mention that Taxim is a district in Istanbul), or the hearkening back to a pre-French-influenced Greek cuisine more like other Mediterranean cuisines.  I’ve always liked Turkish cuisine, but part of what I like about it is that it is mostly comfort food, it’s not aiming for the spice of other cuisines even in the nearby middle east (not to mention a little to the east like Indian).  A really good Turkish dish is usually just simple and clean-tasting– like the spinach and yogurt dish at Cafe Orchid— and I find that really satisfying; I loved the “hummus,” for instance, with its flavors of fresh chickpeas and bright, good quality olive oil, and found both it and the pita a cut above the norm.  But if you’re expecting your dish to come flaming to your table, either actually or metaphorically, Taxim is going to seem muted and quite possibly dull by comparison.

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