Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Park Gyros

Park Gyros is a Mediterranean restaurant located near Golden Gate Park, featuring mostly Greek cuisine, but they describe themselves as "Ancient Greece Meets Contemporary Turkey".

The menu has all the standard Mediterranean appetizers you'd expect (baba ghanoush, hummus, tabouleh, dolma, etc), plus tons of wraps (gyros, falafel, etc), assorted kebab plates with rice, salad, and pita, and a few traditional entrees like moussaka.  But I'm not really a big fan of Mediterranean food, sans one category.  You guessed it: dessert.  The dessert menu is not extensive, with only two options, baklava or rice pudding.  But who needs options, when you have rice pudding?  I love pretty much all puddings, rice pudding included.  And, spoiler, Park Gyros does a great rice pudding.
Outside Seating.
So, Park Gyros.  This is a casual place, you order at a register, located along a counter with the assorted dips and raw kebobs on display.  There is seating inside and out, all clean and well taken care of.

Service has been quite friendly on all my visits.  Yes, I've gone multiple times, because the rice pudding is just that good.  If you ever find yourself near Golden Gate Park, it is certainly worth checking out.
Rice Pudding.  $3.50.
As I said, I had my eyes only on dessert.  Yelpers rave about the baklava, but, baklava is never really my thing.  Sure, I like it, but baklava is like cookies to me, I like them, but I'd pick something else given the choice.  But I do love puddings, and in particular rice pudding, even though I'm not much of a rice eater.  When I saw the rice puddings behind the counter, there was no doubt in my mind that I was getting one.

Of course, rice pudding comes in many styles.  Is it served warm or cold?  Does it have raisins? Or nuts?  How much spicing? What kind of spices?  Cardamon?  Cinnamon on top?  How sweet is it?  Is the rice short or long grained?  Is the pudding runny or custardy? Topped with whipped cream?  Or even fruit?  Was it boiled on the stovetop, or baked?

Unlike crème brûlée, where I have a very, very specific style I like, with rice pudding, I like it many different ways.  But, I've had a lot of rice puddings over the years that were highly mediocre, like the one from Lahore Karahi, that even though it did have raisins, nuts, and spicing, was totally uninteresting.  Or the far too sweet version from Amber Dhara.  I had no idea what to expect from Park Gyros, as they are a gyro shop, not exactly specializing in desserts.

It was a massive serving of rice pudding.  What you see above is a single portion.  Yes, it came in a little aluminum tray (apparently this is traditional, I just learned that now).  As the cashier packaged it up, he asked if I'd like cinnamon on top.  I said sure, and it was freshly sprinkled on for me.  I'm curious why they don't always add it, do some people not like cinnamon?  I certainly like cinnamon on my rice pudding.  Anyway, I liked that touch, cinnamon'ed to order.

The most common rice pudding I encounter is Indian kheer, and I knew this would be a bit different, namely because kheer is boiled on the stovetop, and Turkish rice pudding is baked.  I remember the first time I had Turkish rice pudding, from Tuba, and was a bit put off by the film-like layer on top that results from baking, and the scorch marks on top, because I was unfamiliar with that style.  This time, when I saw the film layer, I momentarily thought there was paper or something on top, but then quickly remembered my previous experience.

I really liked this rice pudding.  And this time, I even embraced that top film layer, appreciating it for the contrasting texture.  The rice was short grained, not remarkable, not too mushy, not really al dente either, just there.  There wasn't tons of rice, but the pudding was thick enough to stand alone.  The pudding was sweetened, but not too sweet.  The cinnamon added some nice spicing.  I didn't really detect any other spices, and there were no nuts nor raisins either.  Somehow, I know this doesn't sound that great, but it really did taste good.  The sweetness was just right, the spicing was balanced, and it was perfectly creamy and comforting.  I didn't need to add anything to it, and appreciated it for its simplicity.  It reminded me of the pre-packaged one I had from Juan J's, which I had previously claimed beats out most restaurant rice puddings.

The portion size that I originally thought was insanely large was easily finished.  I sorta wished I'd gotten a second one to bring home and eat later.  Or to have for breakfast the next day.  It was quite good, and I'd gladly get another.  The $3.50 price was fine for a large portion of a clearly homemade item.

Update review: I was near Golden Gate park one afternoon and remembered the rice pudding, so I swung by Park Gyros again.  This time, I was not asked if I wanted cinnamon added, and it was just dumped on.  And yes, dumped.  I think he slipped as he was doing it, as he really did add a rather large pile of cinnamon on top.

Anyway, it was still delicious.  I love how absolutely creamy the pudding is, how it is the right level of sweet (not too sweet, but sweet enough to feel like a dessert), and strangely I love the thick film on top.  I'll continue to pick this up as a treat whenever I find myself in that part of town.
Park Gyros Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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