With a give attention to Greece’s mountainous north, the Balkan-inspired menu begs to be shared with large teams—in the event you can all rating a desk.

Bar Vlaha Provides a Novel Greek Delicacies a Vivid Brookline Debut

Karavides, a standard dish with crayfish, ouzo, tomato, fennel, and orzo. / Picture by Brian Samuels

My Greek-American pal Ted referred to as me a couple of months again, excited to see if I’d been to the brand new Brookline restaurant Bar Vlaha. No, I instructed him, however the identical group is behind Krasi within the Again Bay, a Greek restaurant I like. “Sure, however this one additionally does Vlach meals!” Ted enthused. I didn’t know what to say to that. “Two of my grandparents have been Vlachs!” Ted added. I lastly replied that I didn’t know that. I had by no means heard of Vlach as both an ethnicity or a delicacies.

Greek-American meals, I knew. In my earlier days, I knew it within the type of sub-shop souvlaki wraps, pan pizzas cooked in olive oil, and loukaniko sausage with diner breakfasts. Extra-traditional Greek eating places grew to become part of my vernacular, and Boston’s, within the ’90s—hey, scratch-made moussaka and actual pork gyros—however they weren’t precisely vacation spot eating. Then got here the current wave of Greek effective eating exemplified by the aforementioned Krasi, Kava within the South Finish, and Committee within the Seaport. These locations serve fashionable Greek fare in rooms that evoke the sun-splashed glamour of a Santorini resort, not the plebeian clamor of a greasy spoon. They’ve swish wine lists, grilled octopus and entire sea bass, and Boston dudes who truly gown as much as impress their dates. That’s a good distance from cheeseburger-cheeseburger-cheeseburger.

However I nonetheless didn’t find out about Vlach. As Ted defined, his grandfolks hailed from Greece’s mountainous northern inside as a part of an ethnic minority with roots within the Balkans, its personal Romance language, and nomadic herding as its foremost livelihood. Vlachs make goat and sheep cheeses and comb the forests for wild mushrooms and wild boar. Removed from the ocean, they take freshwater fish and crustaceans from the rivers and lakes. Additionally they prepare dinner outside with a wooden fireplace, roasting meats on spits, doing sluggish clay-pot braises, and baking “village-style” sourdough bread.

A wood hutch within the eating room that includes Greek plates and extra. / Picture by Brian Samuels

That gave me some bearings, so I scored a reservation—which may take some work right here, because it’s been routinely packed since its March opening—and took a couple of pals. We began with wine and cheese: a bottle of 2022 Ktima Gerovassiliou Alpha Property Malagousia ($80), a type of easy-drinking “porch pounders” from Macedonia, and a few high quality cheeses, just like the agreeably salty/nutty Kefalograviera and smoky Boukovela ($6 every) with spiced almonds and chunky house-made jams of kumquats or grapes. Horiatiko psomi ($6), a dense, rustic bread, got here with tangy, pungent sheep butter and went nice with dips like kopanisti ($6) of whipped feta and roasted peppers; taramosalata ($6) made with carp roe, fairly salty and slightly fishy; and melitzanosalata ($6), superbly smoky charred eggplant properly balanced with the zip of lemon. Up to now, so acquainted.

We have been on much less sure floor with “pita”—not flatbread right here however slices of fairly, savory pies reminiscent of aradopita ($10), cornmeal-crusted and stuffed with feta-dotted boiled greens, and manitaropita ($14), with a flaky phyllo crust and a tasty filling of untamed mushrooms scented with recent thyme. Horiatiki salata ($10), the canonical lettuce-free “Greek salad,” impressed with early-summer tomatoes, nice feta, and a wonderfully easy dressing of olive oil and oregano. Pantzaria ($10) refreshed the drained beet-salad formulation with braised beet tops, a bracingly acidic dressing, and weird-but-good allspice. Nonetheless, Vlach delicacies wasn’t trying strikingly totally different from lowland Greek.

Govt chef Kathryn McCoart’s vegetable dishes lastly took us into some unfamiliar territory. Living proof: the kounoupidi ($14), roasted cauliflower punched up with mustard marinade and larded with currants and pine nuts. Manitaria ($16), fried oyster mushrooms, gave us a “whoa” second with its aromatic inside, delicately crisp coating, and vivid parsley sauce; one chew, and we understood why each desk within the place appeared to have one.

Pestrofa, baked entire rainbow trout with an herb and caper ladolemono. / Picture by Brian Samuels

Then the novel stunners actually began arriving. Karavides ($28) was a soupy pasta dish of orzo flecked abundantly with crayfish in an fragrant seafood inventory showcasing fennel, ouzo, and lemon. Moschari me damaskina ($30) featured fatty, tender beef cheek in a candy, cinnamon-scented sauce of prunes, fortified wine, and molasses, given chew and heft with trahana, an historic grain product created from wheat and fermented milk. Pestrofa ($32), baked entire rainbow trout, wowed us with its skillful boning, fairly plating, and stylish sauce of herbs and capers.

From there, the distinctive melody of Vlach delicacies, with its forest and freshwater bounty, echoes of Balkan Europe, and delicate textures and layered flavors by way of lengthy, sluggish cooking, got here into full view. Few of us had sampled snails past garlicky French escargot, however saligaria ($14) floored us with tender gastropods in a luscious discount of crimson wine, tomatoes, and rosemary, with pearl onions offering crunch and chew. Kokkinisto ($24), stewed hen leg in a barely candy, concentrated tomato sauce, featured the comforting additions of cinnamon and flat egg noodles chopped into squares, nearly like an Ashkenazi Jewish kugel.

One other mind-bender, arni stin souvla ($32), evoked an image of Vlach shepherds cooking outside: Spit-roasted over charcoal, the slow-roasted lamb leg was cooked by means of but nonetheless tender. We gilded the lily additional with patates ($12), potatoes roasted in lamb fats with lemon and recent oregano.

Ode to Pan, a tomato gin-based cocktail with lemon, celery, mastic cucumber soda, and tomato sorbet. / Picture by Brian Samuels

Bar supervisor Alexander Tzovaras has put collectively a kicky cocktail record with tongue-in-cheek creations just like the Olympic Cleanse ($10), a no-alcohol highball with wholesome juice-bar flavors of recent ginger, beets, lemon, and soda, and the Pump the Briki ($16), an over-the-top Greek spin on the ever present espresso martini, right here executed with vodka, espresso and walnut liqueurs, Greek espresso, fortified wine, grape syrup, and a topper of froth created from sweetened instantaneous espresso. Meals-friendlier choices are discovered on the wine record, which options 40 principally Greek bottles (beginning at $50) and a dozen out there by the glass (beginning at $14). We significantly appreciated the 2019 Dougos Rapsani Previous Vines ($75), a giant, hearty, oak-smoothed crimson from Thessaly that matched winningly with McCoart’s lusty roasts and stews.

As for the service, the restaurant has by some means managed to subject a sophisticated, well-coordinated front-of-house workers amid a crippling trade labor scarcity. These servers deftly work an area that has a number of moods: a sidewalk patio overlooking bustling Washington Sq., a protracted desk going through the flame-filled open kitchen, a comfortable bar that fits {couples}’ eating, and a few private-feeling nook nooks. The décor evokes a welcoming Greek summer time dwelling, all white paint and impartial hardwoods with splashes of colour within the tapestried seat cushions.

However what lingers within the thoughts and on the palate is the vividness of this meals: the passel of plates that superficially seem easy however pack a wallop of various and deep flavors. Whereas singles and pairs can normally stroll in for a bar seat and not using a lengthy wait, Bar Vlaha’s menu begs to be shared with large teams of pals. Simply be ready to plan weeks forward to e book a desk for them. Bostonians could also be simply attending to know the convivial joys of Vlach delicacies, however they’re clearly wanting to dive in.

★★★ 1/2

1653 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-906-8556,

Menu Highlights

Manitaropita (wild mushroom phyllo pie), manitaria (fried oyster mushrooms), karavides (oyster with crayfish), moschari me damaskina (beef cheek), pestrofa (baked entire rainbow trou), arni stin souvla (spit-roasted lamb leg)

★★★★ Extraordinary | ★★★ Typically Glorious | ★★ Good | ★ Honest | (No Stars) Poor

First revealed within the print version of the August 2023 concern with the headline, “Vlach Across the Block.”