Greece Lightning

Chefs give Hellenic cuisine its fine-dining due

It happened to Mexican and Indian food. Now Greek cuisine is shaking off its middling associations, thanks to a handful of chefs who are merging the country's ancient flavors with modern techniques.

Chicago Taxim chef David Schneider is as adept at highlighting underrepresented regional specialties as he is at reinterpreting Greek classics. For his gyros (pictured), he brushes duck with a pomegranate glaze, and his spanakopita–assembled with house-made phyllo and feta–changes with the seasons: Right now it revolves around wild leeks and dill. 1558 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-252-1558 or taximchicago.com

New York There is one titan of contemporary Greek cuisine in this city, and his name is Michael Psilakis. His new venture, Gus & Gabriel, might be a gastropub, but the core of his mini empire is wholly Hellenic. Those hankering for rustic dishes should try Kefi, where sweetbreads and meatballs mingle on the menu. At his fancier Anthos, smoked octopus is served with lemon confit and olive oil-poached chicken is dressed with feta fondue. Bonus: At the newish Anthos Upstairs, wallet-friendly nouveau Greek is always on the menu. Gus & Gabriel, 222 W. 79th St.; 212-362-7470. Kefi, 505 Columbus Ave.; 212-873-0200 or kefirestaurant.com. Anthos, 36 W. 52nd St.; 212-582-6900 or anthosnyc.com

Los Gatos, California Throw an Aureole alum into the kitchen of a high-end Greek establishment, and the cuisine is bound to be eye-opening. At Dio Deka, chef Salvatore Calisi pairs Champagne-poached shrimp with melon, mint and Epirus feta; and props braised lamb shanks on sweet-corn risotto and Brussels sprouts. 210 E. Main St.; 408-354-7700 or diodeka.com

Portland, Maine Emilitsa was receiving plenty of acclaim before it was nominated for a James Beard Award this year; now the buzz for this restaurant's refined menu has reached a whole new decibel level. For that, blame such new-guard dishes as sautéed chicken livers with balsamic-vinegar beurre blanc and pan-seared, phyllo-wrapped rabbit stuffed with caramelized fennel. 547 Congress St.; 207-221-0245 or emilitsa.com

Editor's note: Anthos Upstairs has closed and Kefi has temporarily closed.