6830 La Jolla Boulevard, La Jolla
Some restaurants open with fireworks and frenzied PR campaigns. Others do so with extreme quietude. Barleyanfigs, a new Greek restaurant near Windansea, chose the latter option after a prolonged period spent refurbishing a former pizza parlor. The new restaurant got the design right. The small, partly-open kitchen looks out over a narrow dining room that’s neither cramped nor cavernous, despite the nouveau industrial touches of the building’s exposed structure. It’s tasteful, charming, and attractive in the right ways.
Though still in its first month, Barleyanfigs shows great promise. The menu — much less contemporary than the decor — lists many familiar Greek dishes, as well as a few that may be less recognizable. At its best, the cuisine showcases the clean aesthetic of Greek cooking. $6-$12 appetizer plates include some pleasant surprises, like dakos, a Cretan bread salad, and kakavaia, a Greek version of bouillabaisse. The kitchen also makes a delighful tarama, a dish of whipped fish roe and lemon juice that’s a tough sell for some people due to it’s strong flavor, but which Barleyanfigs does well.
Main dishes ($13-19) include all the familiar names of Greek cooking: moussaka, pastitsio, leg of lamb, souvlaki, and a few permutations of shrimp saganaki. The leg of lamb, served simply with roasted potatoes and fresh lemon, is an ideal dish by virtue of its simplicity.
The beer and wine menu has something for everyone, even a $25 “Crazy Donkey” IPA from Greece, but the star of the show is the Retsina for only $4/glass. Many disavow this Greek white wine flavored with pine resin, but the pungent taste of good Retsina is more uplifting than caustically turpentine. More than anything else, it’s a perfect wine for the fresh flavors on the menu at Barleyanfigs.
If the restaurant merits any criticism at this early stage, it’s that the cuisine doesn’t show much refinement. More exacting execution would not necessarily counteract the clean, fresh flavors coming out of the kitchen, but it would dispel the almost “home cooking” experience of digging into one of Barleyanfig’s generous plates. Even so, the restaurant promises great things for Windansea, and it’s likely to become a neighborhood staple once people catch on.