EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - The menu at Macedonian Grill here reads like one of the Greek classics - page after page after page. The menu concept is Mediterranean and American cuisine. Choices include specialized groupings such as Seafood Delights, Mediterranean Seafood Delights, Greek Specialties, Macedonian Specialties, Italian Island and Mediterranean-style Dinners.
We get the connection between Italian and Greek, since their neighborly location in the Mediterranean allows for similar cooking methods and similar ingredients served up in similar ways. It was almost too much like work to read through the entire list of offerings, along with the daily specials for the evening which were recited tableside - there were more than a half-dozen offerings that were not listed on the extensive menu. All that reading was making us hungry.
A sampler of Greek spreads served with pita ($14.99) seemed like the perfect way to get in a Mediterranean mood. Hummus, tzatziki, taramasalata, and a spicy feta dip were arranged around pita triangles. We were familiar with the chickpea- and tahini-based hummus, and thought it could have used more lemon and garlic zing. Tzatziki with cucumber and yogurt, and taramasalata - a caviar roe dip - were both good, but the spicy feta grabbed our attention with its peppery afterburn.
Our soup was like a thickened version of avgolemono - a chicken, rice and lemon soup, but in this case more like an American-style cream-of-chicken and rice soup. It was good, but very thick. A tomato-and-rice soup had a thinner texture, but needed a good dose of salt and pepper.
Our Famous Spinach Pie ($10.99) was composed of layers of spinach and feta cheese baked between paper-thin sheets of phyllo dough. It was good, but it would have been great if the phyllo had been crisper. A simple slice of tomato and a chiffonade of lettuce served as garnish. Thessaloniki's Way ($20.99) - shrimp and scallops sauteed in olive oil with diced tomatoes, garlic, feta, capers and a white-wine sauce served over linguini - made us dream of dining on a warm summer evening, very close to a blue sea. We didn't let the sea of cars parked in the crowded lot ruin the mood.
For dessert, the kataifi ($4.99) looked like a grown-up version of shredded wheat. It was actually homemade from a special phyllo dough that was shredded then filled with honey and nuts. A first cousin to baklava, it was served warm and tasted like heaven, except that another dessert on the long menu list is already called "heaven."
The dining room has recently been expanded, with walls the color of a good Greek suntan instead of the sun-bleached stucco in all those travel brochures. The dining room was large and somewhat dark, with blue pottery and dried-flower arrangements displayed on the walls, along with murals of village life and sconces draped with grapevines and candles. One pair sat alone on the wall close to the takeout area, good for that private conversation that needs to be whispered rather than shouted over the traditional music playing in the background.
Honestly, the shining light in the dinning room was not the decor, but the owner/chef Dimitrios Dounoulis, who wound his way around the room from table to table making small talk, talking food, and stopping by to personally drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil from Greece, of course, over our dishes.
He reminded us of the Greek grill restaurants we ran across in some European capitals where a paid barker/salesman/cheerleader stands in the street and attempts to talk the tourists into dining in their establishments. He was interesting and passionate about his food, and set the tone for each course. What fun!
Unlike those European restaurants where you have to weave your way through acres of broken plates, no dishes were injured during the course of our review meal. That didn't detract from a wonderful meal and plenty of fun.
(C.C. Hoyt is the pseudonym of a southern New Jersey food writer. Write to Hoyt c/o Food Editor James Clark at email@example.com. Restaurant-ratings guide: 4 stars, extraordinary; 3 stars, excellent; 2 stars, good; 1 star, fair; 0 stars, poor.)
6814 Tilton Road
Egg Harbor Township
Hours: Daily, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Breakfast, lunch and dinner served.
Liquor license: BYO
Credit cards: Most major
Disabled access: Yes
Price range: Appetizers, $4.99 to $14.99, entrees $9.99 to $24.99
Our bill for two: $56 plus tip
Web site: www.