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George Christy Talks About Avra Estiatorio, Elgart Aster, Greek Delicacies and more!

Selma Blair, Halle Berry, Cindy Crawford and Ellen Pompeo are among the regulars at Avra Estiatorio, the new restaurant in the heart of Beverly Hills that is drawing crowds
Avra’s three partners Nick Tsoulos, Marc Packer and Nick Pashalis

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The Big Noise in Beverly Hills since April of this year is noisier than ever. Several months are past, as our locals flock to beat the drum about Avra.

Who, what, where, and why Avra?

In the heart of Beverly Hills, at Wilshire Boulevard and North Beverly Drive, Avra’s taken over the town.

Avra Estiatorio is the Greek restaurant that’s come to us from Manhattan where there are two popular locations from entrepreneurers Nick Tsoulos, Nick Pashalis and Marc Packer. Obviously Los Angeles was ready for them. Expense has not been spared, and Avra appears to be a gold mine.

In Manhattan Avra’s Big Noise thrilled the diners. And food fanatics are legend in the Big Apple. The restaurants are inspired by the successful Milos dining rooms, created by Costas Spiliades, in Canada, U.S., and Europe.

Dining out in New York remains a passion, just as it’s become here, and Avra Estiatorio in Beverly Hills is a showplace for locals to experience like no other.

Immense, sized at 11,000 square feet, and seating 240, plus other areas seating more for private patios and receptions. Oddly, Avra doesn’t seem immense.

Those of us from the School of Cozy find it surprisingly comfortable.

The high ceilings add to its stature, as does the open kitchen that’s windowed, where chefs, under the guidance of Cyprus-born Christos Philippou, prepare their specialties nonstop.

On-the-town realtors Elgart Aster and Paul Swerdlove lately enjoyed their sixth visit, observing, as they have, that Avra’s guests are attractively attired, not the sweaty tee-shirt and ripped jeans slobs.

Cindy Crawford, Rande Gerber, Halle Berry, Chris North, Ellen Pompeo, Anthony Mackie, Steve Stabler, Stephen Galloway, Nicole Murphy and Nicole Scherzinger are regulars.

A carafe of extra virgin olive oil at every table, created from the finest Koroneiki olives from the region of Peloponnesus, is available for dressing the toasted squares of pita or whatever else.

We’re informed by the owners “that the highly-coveted Greek oregano, described by the Goddess Aphrodite as a symbol of happiness, is grown in the nutrient-rich soils of Mt. Taygetos, and perfectly complements our vine-ripe, field-grown imported tomatoes that are never refrigerated.”

Lemon and ficus trees are decorative, as are tubs of beautiful fruits and vegetables.

Here and there on far-off tables with ice in the dining room are the freshly caught whole fish flown in daily from Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Florida and New Zealand. Sold by the pound, and charcoal grilled with olive oil, lemon, sea salt, saffron and mustard.

The varieties, glistening with freshness, include the loup de mer, Dover sole, branzino, lobster, king tiger prawns, live langoustines, and others.

Additionally: Arctic char, king salmon, halibut, fish of the day, etc. are in demand.

Meanwhile, the appetizers must not be missed. Hummus, tamarasalata, the traditional crispy zucchini and eggplant chips with tzatsiki (addictive!).

Sides to be savored: the gigantes, (seasoned lima beans), fasolakia (green beans with tomatoes), spanakorizo (spinach rice), and more.

A raw bar features oysters and clams.

For those looking for “from the land” items, chicken, filet mignon, lamb chops, etc. are on the menu.

As any good Grecophile knows, the dessert table teases at the end of a meal.

At Avra, the almond baklava, the olive oil cake, the galaktoboureko (a filo pastry with orange and lemon dressing), the classic walnut cake, and other selections merit a taste or two to top off the pleasure of dining.

Before our dinner at Avra, we sipped the new Tito’s Handmade Vodka, glutten-free and kosher, produced by Tito Beveridge who created it in 1995 in Austin, Texas. Refreshing on the rocks, and praised by Avra’s Operations Manager Erik Weatherford III.

The wine menu offers tempting fine Greek wines.

Considering the quality of the cuisine and the service, prices are agreeable and in line with other luxe establishments.

The name Avra derives from ancient Greek mythology. In a nod to the Goddess of Breezes and Cool Air.

At 233 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, Avra Estiatorio opens for lunch on weekdays and dinner nightly.

Telephone: (310) 734-0841.

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