I’ve encountered a lot of skepticism from parents and non-parents alike as I’ve embarked on my journey to find the most baby-friendly eating establishments in San Francisco.  Other parents with children of similar ages think that I’m crazy and they tell tales of how terrible their children are in restaurants.  I feel for these parents, but at the risk of sounding very judgmental, I can usually detect that they’ve violated at least one of my rules.  From parents of older children, it’s usually a comment along the lines of “Well, that’s just fine while he’s X age, but wait until he turns Y!”  When Ryan was 3 months, these well-intentioned people would tell me that my sweet baby would be a nightmare to take anywhere once he started to crawl.  At 6 months old, he was still charming at dinner so they warned me that he’d be a terror once he started walking.  Now they warn me that it’s all going to go to hell when he turns two.  They might be right, but my child seems to just get better and better at dining out.  I’m superstitious, so I’ll be knocking on wooden tables until he’s 10, but given that my Little Buddy happily sat through an hour and a half dinner at Kokkari last week I’m not too worried.

Or maybe he just likes Greek food.

The decor at Kokkari is impressive.  Plush armchairs and tables are strategically placed to highlight the glowing rotisserie.  As we were led through the front dining room to our table in the back dining room, I felt like we were walking through a hotel lobby bar instead of a restaurant.  LB entered the restaurant like he owned the place.  He surveyed the landscape, particularly the fire with the rotisserie.  I was happy they didn’t seat us in the front room, though.  Fireplaces and tiny diners don’t mix. 

Our waiter showed an impressive amount of knowledge and enthusiasm for the menu.  I immediately ordered for LB.  The waiter suggested a side dish of Orzo.  I had noticed lamb meatballs on the menu, and so I asked him to bring an order of those as well.  I was impressed when the waiter asked us if we had our own utensils for LB or if would we like a small set of silver.  The fact that it was really just a regular teaspoon and salad fork didn’t diminish the effect.  It was a nice touch.

LB’s meatballs arrived quickly and were tender and flavorful.  For ourselves, we ordered stuffed calamari and a porcini mushroom dish that was a special for the evening.  I was glad we ordered the calamari because it was very good.  I was also happy because LB really enjoyed the fresh mandarin oranges that were served as garnish.  Our waiter happily brought him a whole dish.  More kid-friendly points for our waiter.

I was excited to learn that the rotisserie item for the evening was roasted duck.  I love duck – when it’s done well.  If it’s not perfect, I’m just angry.  I know that is irrational, but it is how I feel.  Before ordering, I grilled the waiter about the quality of the duck.  I decided to go for it.  My mother-in-law was with us; she chose the branzino.  I think branzino to my mother-in-law is like duck for me.  She lived in Italy and has many memories of that fish.  The waiter didn’t know it, but there was a lot riding on the branzino and the duck.  Matt ordered the lamb shank.  It is a favorite dish for him as well, but he’s very mild mannered and unlikely to complain about anything. 

When the waiter came to clear our appetizer plates, he left LB’s dish.  LB was very upset that his dish had been left behind.  He called after the waiter and held up his dish to be cleared.  I think he likes to eat out because it’s an opportunity for him to be treated just like mom and dad. 

Everything was amazing.  The presentation of the whole branzino was lovely and the duck was very flavorful.  Matt’s lamb shank was the size of LB’s head, so he was pleased.  And LB was as content as ever.  He’d finished his dinner and was playing with his matchbox cars.  There was a little ledge on the wall next to him and he’d discovered that it was the perfect track for his cars.  I was sitting across from him and in between bites of duck, we were having car races.

For dessert, my mother-in-law and I split Baklava.  It was a rare treat for me because my husband is allergic to nuts.  It was really good, but it paled in comparison to the flourless chocolate cake that Matt had ordered.  Sometimes flourless cake is heavy or dry, but this cake was light and fluffy.  It was a fork fight to the finish.  Matt says that his mom and I are alike in one major way:  We are both great to share a dessert with, unless it’s a really good one.   He had a hard time keeping up with us on the cake.

The time flew by.  We’d requested, as usual, that the waiter keep the pace of our dinner moving along and he did.  I didn’t realize that an hour and a half had gone by so quickly.  Neither did LB.  Kokkari might be a little ambitious for some parents, but I think for a seasoned diner or a slightly older child, it is just right.  The staff was very accommodating and the food is very good.  Plus Greek food is a great choice for kids.  It’s a good combination of unique flavors to stretch their palates and more standard fare to fill their tummies.  Happy dining!
Kokkari Estiatorio on Urbanspoon

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