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Friday, March 23, 2012

Agora Bistro: For Greek, here we go!

Lunch Date #6: February 17, 2012

I was running late (hmmm, nothing new there!). I had called Mom to have her meet me for lunch that day--although when I have time, I try to pick her up since she prefers not to drive. We were to meet at Baci, downtown Pleasanton. Still in my tennis garb, I ran into Baci--ignoring the hostess--and took a quick look around. No Mom—whew, I had beaten her there…but then I noticed the other patrons were dressed rather nicely. I looked a mess and thought perhaps I’d just back out of there and meet Mom outside. Fortunately she was just crossing the street. “Let’s go somewhere else,” I had explained, “something a bit more casual”. She was fine with that idea. We started to head south on Main Street and looked at the menu at Chianti. We weren’t really in the mood for Italian food that day. I peered across the street—“Hey, how about Greek?” I suggested. Mom registered a sneer and uttered a negative sounding snort. “Well Mom” I laughed. “Guess where we'll be going today!” She knew her reaction made the decision for us: we went to Agora Bistro to try some Greek food!

Agora Bistro, 443 Main Street, www.agorabistro.com/ is in the spot where Bruno’s was located long ago. We certainly had liked Bruno’s—not sure why they pulled out—it seems that their location in Livermore does well. I had actually eaten at Agora Bistro a few times, but had not been there in a fairly long while—and it was certainly new to Mom. She was wondering, as we crossed the street, which of us—me or my brother—had declared a long standing distain toward eating lamb. It’s not me, I had reassured her. Not that I cook it at home, but at a Greek restaurant, it is the thing to try.

Critique #1 location: 5 points. No surprise there—right in the heart of downtown. Nice building and can find parking in the back.

Critique #2 ambiance: 4 points. We preferred to sit in the back, in the sun room. That is actually the only room in which I’ve ever dined-both when it was Bruno’s, and also at the current establishment. It is a nice room-open and sunny. Mom and I discussed why we seem likely to pass out a “four” for such a place, and not a five? We agreed that we didn’t want to just “give out” a five, that score would be reserved for a truly deserving establishment. Then Mom commented, “Don’t know why we’re so critical…” and also: “glad we don’t really do this [critique] for a living—too much pressure!” I suppose we are just so sure everyone will be reading our blog, and we want to get it right! Responsible reporting—that is what we are all about!

Critique #3 Menu selection: 4 points. Reading the menu carefully, we both felt there were several items we could choose. I wanted Mom to have a good first Greek experience, so I thought we’d go for both an appetizer of Baba Ghanoush and then also both order something as an entrée. As it turns out, after describing the gyros, Mom quite happily agreed to go for that since she really likes Philly Cheesesteak and this is about as close as you can get to one in a Greek place. In the end, I decided to get one also—sounded too good to miss.

Critique #4 Service: 4 points. Wow, I guess we were in the mood to go with “fours” for the score that day! We were happy with our service: the tea and coffee were delivered quickly and were hot. I was very pleased to get my hot tea water in a little ceramic pot that was easy to pour without making a mess. Mom’s cup of coffee was huge-but she was happy for it and said it was good coffee. The server overall did quite a fine job.   

Critique #5 Food: 4 points (of course). Mom’s first comment for the Baba Ghanoush was “I like this,” saying it with more than a hint of surprise. This Mediterranean dish is based on roasted eggplant, but at Agora Bistro they add roasted red peppers as well; seasoned perfectly and quite tasty. The large Greek olives were a hit with Mom also. The gyros were large-we could have easily split one-they are mixed with a combination of lamb and beef—not too gamey and had good flavor. We were impressed with the presentation: two gyros served with a small green salad-topped with delicious vinaigrette, yogurt and even a few crispy French fries. Good news for us: we were able to both save ½ of our gyros to take home for another meal. Our only criticism: the pita in the basket as pretty boring-didn’t seem all that fresh, was not warm nor very soft. Really not that much different than that which you can buy off the shelf at Trader Joe's.

Critique #6 Value: 4 points. Really, we didn’t plan the use of the 4 points-for-everything that day! Compared to where we have dined thus far with our project, this place seems pretty good. The quality of the food and service along with large portions for a very reasonable price made us feel a score of a 4 was just right. The gyros were $11—a good deal considering so much left over and the additional side items. The baba ghanoush was a bit high at $8 for a lunch appetizer, but really not at all out of line compared to other downtown restaurants.

Overall score for Agora Bistro: 4.2  I’m beginning to think that a score of a 4 is what we give when something is pretty good, but not knocking-our-socks off good. Something you’d refer to a friend, and even go back to when in the mood, but not one of those “wow” that was something amazing sort of a place. But all in all a great lunch date—Mom tried some new things and as I’ve been saying, I think she is really enjoying our project: fun outings with her favorite daughter, good food…and plenty of left overs to take home!

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