THE CUISINE: Greek
THE DRAW: Greek native Nick Rizos had big visions when he opened Stratos in 2001. Half-bar, half-restaurant, the place is 5,600 square feet with multiple rooms, big-screen TVs, club-style seating and belly-dancing lessons. Can it do all that and serve good food, too? Yes.
THE FOOD: Casserole-type dishes, including pastitsio ($11) and moussaka ($11), were excellent. Pastitsio, with its layers of elbow macaroni and ground beef, was like a Greek version of lasagna, with a hint of nutmeg adding an exotic note.
The moussaka featured beef layered with eggplant, which is customary, but also paper-thin slices of potato, which made the dish heartier. Like the pastitsio, it came appropriately topped with bechamel sauce, a rich, eggy version that trembled like custard.
Souvlaki meat thats skewered and grilled can be ordered with chicken, pork or shrimp. The Grecian plate ($16) lets you combine two of those and adds dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), rice and vegetables. The pork seemed a little dry and dull, but the chicken was juicy and moist.
The grape leaves, filled with herbed rice and meat, showed some zip, thanks to the buttery lemon sauce, but they were loosely rolled and quick to disassemble. The Greek salad (regular portion $6, side $3) came drizzled with an irresistible homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
For dessert, Stratos has baklava ($3). But spring for the Aphrodite Passion ($8), a shell of moist devils food cake enclosing a center of chocolate mousse, studded with whole bites of cheesecake, edged with fudgy chocolate and sprinkled with slivered almonds. Yowsa.
THE SETTING: Pass through the barnlike bar to reach the dining room, where seating is in levels. A ring of booths looks down on a center pen with tables and chairs, but the booths are almost too intimate; couples must sit next to each other.
THE SERVICE: The servers can seem inexperienced but are sweet and attentive.
THE DETAILS: 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Tuesday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Major credit cards accepted; smoke-free; wheelchair-accessible.
This review originally appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Friday, April 8, 2005.