South Shore’s Artemis Mediterranean Grill serves fantastic Mediterranean dishes | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Shore’s Artemis Mediterranean Grill serves fantastic Mediterranean dishes

Ashley A. Cooper
Lake Tahoe Action

Falafel, souvlaki and pitas are among the Greek delights offered at Artemis Mediterranean Grill in South Lake Tahoe.

You know the life-gratifying relief, after diving too deeply for too long, of breaching the water's surface and kicking your way into the air? Your lungs rushing to suck in all the sky's oxygen and laughing at your escape, head thrown back in joy?

As I savored the first slow spoonfuls of my chocolate galaktoboureko at Artemis Mediterranean Grill, eyes rolling back, I knew I had barely escaped a life-altering mistake. We almost didn't order it, tummies comfortably full and taste buds and spirits satiated. Yet, the dessert's name intrigued me, and truth be told, I'm a slave to my sweet tooth.

It was everything our server Amy promised and so much more. The galaktoboureko was an enormous slice of warm, gooey chocolate cake baked with flaky filo dough. The layers yielded to the teeth and melted on the tongue, with cool homemade cinnamon whip cream so deceptively thick it could pass for ice cream. Rivers of honey streamed across the entire plate, with a sprig of mint for color. All hyperbole aside, it was better than… Ben & Jerry's on a lonely night.

The moment you step into Artemis, you forget you're in a strip mall. The elegant and simple décor transports you to somewhere secret and romantic.

Big windows invite light and airiness into the intimate room, while red, copper and blue accent a maroon mood. The warm décor blends salvaged wood, painted brick and iron with tasteful pieces and bright little flowers. We sat near the far wall painted with a giant map of the Mediterranean region and a view of the sunny and private outdoor eating area. It's the type of place you should go to close a business deal in your favor over a tiny porcelain tea cup of spicy Turkish coffee.

The staff moved gracefully through the space with easy demeanors. Our server pleasantly answered our questions as if she had all the time in the world and treated her other customers the same.

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Artemis makes all its food from scratch daily, from the dolmas and baklava to the salad dressings and babba ganoush. Organic and free-range when possible, most of the produce and meats are sourced locally. Where it counts, they import.

Such is the case with the saganaki appetizer. A blend of goats' and sheeps' milk cheese, the halloumi is imported from Cypress. It is served fried and sizzling on a cast-iron platter that keeps the pitas warm and soft. Saganaki makes a person question why our region has yet to embrace the art of unapologetically frying cheese, instead of quietly scraping the drippings off the panini maker. If you love salt, cheese and life, get after the saganaki.

The dense oblong falafels are so expertly ground and spiced that the flavors act both subtly and sharply. Modern falafels have become painfully common place, but Artemis redeems them back to their ancestral potential.

The many gyros and pit wraps include rotisserie meats, venison, seared ahi, roasted vegetables and more. In the lamb gyro, the spices, tzatziki, onions and tomatoes complemented the natural flavors of the stacked and tender rotisserie lamb. The lightly dressed Greek salad was fresh, colorful and so crunchy it was loud.

To taste a lot, try your choice of souvlaki. The large entree arrived with two long, thin spears on top: one of juicy, marinated grilled chicken, the other stabbing through thick-cut, bright vegetables. Mounded below them were a deep-green tabbouleh scoop and saffron-apricot rice with roasted almond slices. A warm pita sat humbly alongside it all. The skordalia garlic sauce, so thickened with potatoes it could be a hummus, knocked my sandals off.

Every part of the meal was delicious — artistic as much as flavorful. The colors, smells, tastes and the opportunity to eat with your hands made the act of dining an experience of sensory delights. For the ears, Artemis played soft vocals with soothing guitar on the stereo.

Then… the chocolate galaktoboureko.

My only criticism of Artemis is there isn't one at North Shore.

Ashley A. Cooper is a freelance writer residing in Truckee. She can be reached at aacooper18@gmail.com.

If you go

What: Artemis Mediterranean Grill

Where: 2229 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe (A second location can be found at 900 Ski Run Blvd. in South Lake Tahoe.)

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. May close as early as 9 p.m. during the slow season.

Phone: 530-542-2500

Website: http://www.artemismediterraneangrill.com

Service: Sweet, knowledgeable, helpful

Atmosphere: Warm, inviting, romantic. Good for groups, families, dates or alone

Drinks and wine: Bottled beer with frosty pint glasses, range of glasses and bottles of wine

Price: $-$$

Wheelchair accessible. Call for catering.

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