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Mourayo, 1732 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009 (202) 667-2100 Frankly, we’re not big fans of women’s gymnastics. We’re ambivalent about track and field and downright mystified by individual synchronized swimming. Still, with the Olympic competition in full swing, we decided to join the fun and indulge in some Hellenistic edibles. So, we visited Mourayo, a small Greek restaurant on Connecticut Avenue, to celebrate that country’s culinary contributions with a feast of chewy grilled pita, chubby morsels of fried shrimp, goat stew, and grilled fish served whole. Until recently, sophisticated diners might have scoffed at the notion of innovative Greek cooking. After all, the Greeks are known as a people who provided philosophy and art that withstood the millennia, not a people who provided the platonic ideal of tasty food. But Mourayo, launched in March 2004 by the owners of La Tomate, is part of the new Greek cooking movement which emphasizes fresh meats and seafood married with the native flavors of figs, olives, lemons, and honey. Many traditional Greek dishes are notably absent from the menu, among them spinach pie, moussaka, and baklava. At its best, Mourayo is a neat spot at which to linger over ouzo and conversation. But as much as we wanted to love the lighter, gentler brand of Greek cuisine, three visits showed the fare to be inconsistent and overpriced. Most of the best things out of Mourayo’s kitchen appear on the appetizer menu, so it makes sense to sample a few. On one starter plate, a school of firm, briny anchovies encircles a mound of mixed greens. The plate is topped off with smooth fish roe dip and caviar for a stirring sampler of seaside flavors. Two other appetizers feature brawny slabs of grilled octopus and cuttlefish, both smoky and tender. The octopus arrives with fava bean purée and squid ink vinaigrette; the cuttlefish, with herb-infused olive oil. Diners craving more familiar Greek fare may opt to nibble on phyllo parcels stuffed with oozy cheese, though the pastry shell should be flakier and less dense. Mourayo’s main courses are less-consistent and too steeply priced. Seared lamb chops with white bean purée are robust and meaty. But at $18.95, the Peloponnesian goat soup is a snore, featuring hunks of mild goat meat in an anemic broth. And aside from tinging our teeth purple, a seafood risotto special was utterly unremarkable. Fortunately, Mourayo hits its stride with several dishes, including a daily selection of fish grilled and served whole. It’s not easy eating, though. Savoring the luscious fish requires forking gingerly through a minefield of bones. Chunky lamb stew served over orzo makes a rich, satisfying meal, and at $14.95, it is the best deal on the menu. Another worthy order is pork loin topped with soft sheep’s milk cheese and honey-fig sauce. The dish is rich, but the mix of savory, sweet, and salty ingredients strikes just the right balance. With names like galaktoboureko and Aspasia’s Ecstasy, Mourayo’s desserts are more fun to order than they are to eat. The best of those we tried was Aphrodite’s Desire, creamy yogurt and walnuts drizzled in honey. Mourayo’s dining room is small and spare. On busy nights, a cheery cacophony can make it hard to carry on intimate conversation. Behind the bar, a seascape mural evokes the Greek Isles and mock portholes adorn the white walls. But, the nautical theme gets taken a step too far with waiters in sailor suits. One dining companion wondered aloud whether the staff might break into a Cole Porter chorus between courses. Still, Mourayo’s décor gives diners a good indication of what to order to increase their odds of finding a gold-medal meal. — Vanessa Blum is a senior reporter at Legal Times . Phillip Dubé is an attorney at D.C.’s Covington & Burling.

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