We and another couple had dinner at Taxim last night, a restaurant in the vibrant Wicker Park area. The restaurant is a single storefront space with only a blackboard on the sidewalk and a small sign on the wall next to the door to announce its presence. You walk in by a small bar area, and the restaurant space itself is a series of copper topped tables. Tables adjacent to the walls have wooden benches decorated with a variety of throw pillows of different designs and colors–suggestive of Arabic motifs. The ceilings are very high, giving the room a pleasant sense of openness.
Corey, our waiter, was very knowledgeable about the menu, which was very helpful since Taxim is not your average Greek restaurant, but shows influences from Cyprus, Turkey, and other parts of the eastern Mediterranean. We started with roasted red and yellow beets served with wilted Swiss chard, counterbalanced by a garlic walnut skordalia (a puree of the walnuts and garlic with Greek olive oil) and a nice feta triangle. Another small plate was a leek pie made with phyllo dough, goat feta, dill and lemon. Green lentils cooked in olive oil and water, served with a balsamic reduction and a triangle of sheep’s feta and semolina pita bites was delicious as well. Baby okra with fresh coriander, tossed with olive oil and thinly sliced pieces of sun-dried tomatoes was a hit with 3 out of the 4 of us, with my wife not so keen on the taste of the okra. I felt there was no greasy or slimy feel to the baby okra, and although the sun-dried tomatoes were too salty by themselves, they countered the need for seasoning of the okra. The only miss on the appetizers was the average and uninspired roasted eggplant variation on babaghanoush.
Main plates are a good sized portion, and we shared 4 entrées. We had 2 orders of the excellent duck gyro, roasted duck breast and leg meat served wrapped in “Pontian” satz bread with a mint yogurt sauce, with duck fat french fries. Oven roasted whole sea bass was perfectly cooked, and deboned at tableside, served with nicely sautéed dandelion greens. I ordered the fish gyro, a roasted sea bream served in the same satz bread but with a tahini sauce. I found the bream to be fishy smelling, and excessively salted, and could not recommend it.
We had no room to sample the desserts, but they did look interesting. The wine list is a very extensive introduction to Greek white, reds and a few roses. We had a very nice Santorini Assyritko, full of fruit with a good acid balance.
I would recommend Taxim to experience a more varied Greek culinary excursion.