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When a friend and respected colleague suggested I try Apollonia Grill, near Lee Roy Selmon’s  on Cooper Creek Boulevard, I was up for the challenge. The question: Would I find fresh, innovative cuisine? The answer: A resounding yes! Where once stood a flatbread restaurant now stands an inspiring gem with new twists on some classic Greek dishes.

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The restaurant itself has always been appealing indoors, with dark woods mixing with calm lighting. Now add a great chef, a bright, flavorful new menu and attentive servers and bartenders (thank you, Stephania and Anna) and you have a good thing going.

To start, the grilled octopus was tender with just a drizzle of olive oil and red vinegar. The spanikopita was so much lighter than a more dried-out version we tried in Gulf Gate last month. This iteration was flaky—a measurement of good phyllo crust.  Next,  we dipped into a single order of tzatziki, which was just enough to know that next time I want a double order and also a pint to take home.

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And what is a Greek restaurant without a good Greek salad?  This one hits the mark with a clean presentation of feta, cucumbers, pepperoncini and beets (a personal favorite).  And although it’s clearly not what you consider traditional Mediterranean, the ahi tuna and watermelon salad with baby arugula and feta is a perfect light dinner choice on a sweltering night.

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Moussaka[/caption]

While at this point I was tempted to add a grilled chicken skewer and call it a meal we could hardly say no to the next course. From individual moussaka casseroles (with a creamy, golden-brown-rimmed béchamel topping) to the tender grilled lamb chops with Greek potatoes and grouper Florentine with a white wine lemon sauce, the freshness of the ingredients and the skills of the chef continued to win our applause.  P.S.: Do not miss the jumbo scallops pan seared and served over creamy leek and mushroom orzo with wilted spinach.  (I will beg for that orzo recipe!)

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Grouper Florentine[/caption]

The pizza is not memorable, and quite frankly only on the menu since the restaurant has a wood burning oven, which it also uses for its roasted vegetables and homemade bread.

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Lamb chops[/caption]

And saganaki lovers might want to go in for “Opa! Wednesdays”—the grilled Kasseri cheese, flamed with brandy, is offered for just $5.

Overall, Apollonia Grill is an example of what the more tired, staid Greek restaurants in town need to look to model.  We will be back many times.

Apollonia Grill, 8235 Cooper Creek Blvd., University Park, (941) 359-4816

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