San Francisco is overrun with Italian restaurants. But the consensus seems to be that one Greek spot is enough, probably because 12-year-old Kokkari gets it just right.
Erik Cosselmon has been the chef here since 2004, though the menu has changed little since the restaurant opened. The generous spirit of the restaurant and those signature recipes are captured in the new cookbook Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors. Owning a copy means you'll never have to visit the restaurant ever again. But you should.
There are beloved dishes--the spreads (melitzanosalata, taramosalata, tzatziki, favosalata or tirosalata) with grilled pita ($7.50), or cheesy zucchini fritters with minted yogurt ($8.75; click here for the recipe).
A giant hearth is the literal and figurative centerpiece of the front dining room. Over a wood fire, Cosselmon roasts whole Napa-raised lambs, chickens and generous cuts of local pork; after you see the selections, ordering one is a foregone conclusion.
It's also hard to find fault with a pristine whole grilled fish, dressed only with olive oil and lemon juice (market price). And though every Greek restaurant has moussaka, this has cinnamon-scented lamb, eggplant and yogurt béchamel in perfect proportion ($18).
Making all of these things at home is now an option, but you couldn't go wrong making a reservation either.
Kokkari, 200 Jackson St. (at Front St.); 415-981-0983 or kokkari.com