Mezes

On Chestnut at Divisadero. This is a tasty but expensive Greek restaurant that is way out of the way in San Francisco. To go here, you would have to go out of your way. But if you crave Greek food and price is no object, this place isn’t a bad idea. We got a huge meal, with wine and dessert, which made it even pricier. The service was good, though, and they are real Greek people from Greece, so if authenticity worries you, have no fears.

The plates are small to medium-sized, but they are meant to be shared. Unfortunately (for Jordan) they had no ouzo to go with the meal, but perhaps that was for the best. We had chickpea keftedes (patties), saganaki (fried cheese), “summery” calamari (stuffed with tomatoes and peppers), meatballs in tomato sauce, and shrimp in another tomato sauce. For dessert, the galactobourikos (custard wrapped in phyllo), and a lemon cake dipped in honey. All in all, very very filling, and very good. I also had a Kouros chardonnay, which claimed to be dry. Maybe if you had it with dessert it would be dry. Ann had a tasty gewurtztraminer, and Jordan had a different chardonnay.

I would go again, but my wallet won’t let me for a while. The listed price is without wine and dessert.

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Athithi

On Dwight, just east of Telegraph. Completely vegetarian South Indian food that is good and cheap. I mean, where else can you get a masala dosa for $3? It was pretty good, and the staff is friendly. Go earlier for dinner ( before 8 ) to avoid them running out of your favorite dish. As an added bonus, for a more authentic Indian experience, get a Thums Up/Fanta/Limca. Or don’t. Your call.

UPDATE : This place has since closed and was replaced by “The Patio.”)

White Teeth

By Zadie Smith. This is one of the best books I’ve read in the last few months, for sure. Every character has a compelling thread of story, woven together in the complex and brilliant tapestry that makes up this novel. It ranks up there with Midnight’s Children as a Great Novel, in my opinion. I loved the exaggeration of the characters, who, while larger-than-life, were eminently believable and human. But it was that distillation of them, what Smith chose to write about, that makes the whole experience so much fun.

I read this book in two binges of weekend reading — I couldn’t bring myself to read just a chapter a day over the course of time. I needed more, which is another tribute to the readability of this book. It takes a slice of a life in a place I know about only through movies and books (England), and made it more real in a way that I had not experienced before. Probably because the characters were Indian, and the time was when I, too, was growing up (unlike, say, Hanif Kureishi). I really connected with these characters, even though they were in another country.

The most interesting aspect of the book, thematically, was how it came back on itself at the end, that there’s this notion of historical necessity that many of the characters carry around with them the whole time. Hortense, who knows that the Rapture is nigh, Millat, who is obeying a destiny, Marcus, who has his mouse, and others too, I bet. If I had to write a paper on the novel, that is certainly something to think of. Everyone has a destiny to follow. And in writing, that is certainly true — the author has written an ending. The joy is in figuring out how the individual destinies intersect and work out in the end.