Ken and I love having a neighborhood place in West Portal for casual dinners with friends. We’ve been there several times, but we’re always happy to go back for a comfortable setting and a good solid meal. A bonus is being able to support a neighborhood business owned and operated by locals out here on the west side of town. According to an SFGate article, “Orexi is the first restaurant from chef-owner John Loufas and his wife, Effie, longtime residents of West Portal in San Francisco.”
While we were waiting for Jan and Murray recently, Art ordered Orexi’s most popular flatbread with roasted mushrooms, house-made Greek sausage topped with chopped scallions and fresh arugula. It was the perfect way to start the meal. Then, due to a mix-up in our order, we also had the fresh Monterey squid appetizer, which ended up as a happy mistake because the squid was tender and flavorful and perfect for Jan who couldn’t eat the flatbread due to dietary restrictions. Ken and I also shared the grilled octopus salad. Orexi does these seafood dishes especially well.
For the entrée course, Ken and I split the wild Alaska halibut and the evening’s special, a large grilled steak. Both were well cooked, moist and delicious. The wild mushrooms accompanying the halibut were especially good.
The Greek yogurt with family-grown honey and strawberries was a great end to the meal, as was the galaktoboureko (a Greek dessert of semolina custard in filo) that Lena ordered. Neither dessert was very sweet, but both were rich enough to satisfy.
The reception at Orexi can be a bit surly at times, but we don’t mind, because its well worth having a neighborhood restaurant where you can be sure of getting a quality meal at reasonable prices without (much) pretension and even less fuss.
Orexi: 243 West Portal Avenue, San Francisco. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday at 5pm. (Orexi will be closed July 2nd and will reopen July 11th.) Reservations available on OpenTable.com or by phone at (415) 664-6739.
Ken and I went to see Jake Shimabukuro in concert because we’ve been hearing about him for a few years, and Art is a big fan him and talks about Jake like he is a personal friend. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, other than a young Hawaiian man on the ukulele, and I was having visions of past Hawaiian luaus.
Jake Shimabukuro has been playing the ukulele since his mother, an accomplished ukulele player and singer on her own, put one in his hands when he was 4 years old. As a young adult, he played with and founded several groups, which won awards in Hawaii music industry. He was largely unknown outside Hawaii and Japan until 2006, when someone posted a video of Jake* that went viral.
On this evening, Jake started with Eleanor Rigby, the first of several Beatles songs he played. The range of songs Jake plays on his four-strings is amazing. We were also treated to his renditions of Bohemian Rhapsody, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps and a piece written by Jake Shimabukuro that was inspired by Beethoven. Often accompanied by his bass player, Nolan Verner, Jake makes his ukulele sound like it has many more than four strings and as if it were a much bigger instrument. His range and versatility are amazing. Who knew that the ukulele could sound like that?
The evening was fun and entertaining and, even though we were at the Davies Symphony Hall, Jake’s personality made it feel like an intimate event, with his shout-outs to family, friends and business associates. See! One concert and I’m already, like Art, talking about Jake Shimabukuro like we are personal friends. This is one of those concerts that everyone should experience, even if they don’t know they are ukulele fans. Afterwards, they’ll hear the instrument in a whole new way. Maybe it’s time for another trip to Hawaii.
(*I couldn’t find anything designated as this first viral video, but this one might be it.)