4150 Chain Bridge Rd., Fairfax 352-4433 Hours: Open daily for lunch, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; dinner, 5 to 11 p.m. Late fare 11 p.m. to midnight daily. Bakery opens at 7 a.m. Prices: Lunch soups and sandwiches $2.25 to $6:95; salad plates and entrees $6.95 to $12.95; dinner appetizers and soups $2.25 to $6.95; sandwiches and entrees $5.25 to $15.95. Cards: American Express, Visa, Choice, MasterCard. Nonsmoking section available. Reservations requested.
Life has come full circle for Tassos Triarhos. Forty years ago, he began working in his father's restaurant in Thessalonika, Greece. Now his children work in his new restaurant here in Fairfax. In between there have been other family-run endeavors, most recently the Havabite Eatery, also in Fairfax.
As for the Odyssey, the newly built, compact structure is surprisingly large inside, with room for 160 diners at carefully spaced tables on two levels and 40 more on an outside patio. The architectural style defies categorizing but suggests a blend of geometric modern and sun-baked Mediterranean.
While the architecture is distinctive, the furnishings -- a floral patterned carpet and familiar bamboo chairs -- and the food are more conventional.
The menu is described here as "continental," which in this case is a shorthand way to say "something for everyone." A diversified cast of appetizers, for example, includes clams casino, fried calamari, baked brie, shrimp cocktail, and chopped chicken liver, to mention just a few. A few Greek specialties also dot the menu.
You can get things off to a satisfying start with an ample portion of fried calamari -- lightly breaded, tender curls that resemble large shell macaroni and are served with a nicely complementary whipped lemon-butter dip. Another lemony sauce, reminiscent of Greek avgolemono soup, is pooled under two spinach/feta cheese pies that had a disappointingly chewy dough. A special one evening, a duo of fresh duck sausages, met with qualified success. While I found the sausage with spinach too timid, a coarser and more interesting version came sparked by green peppercorns and sun-dried tomatoes.
The entrees tended to be pretty good, but most had small flaws that easily could have been avoided with more care and attention in the kitchen. For example, the roasted half duckling came with a wonderful brandy sauce with apples and raisins, but the tough meat had to be nearly chiseled from the bone. The lamb shish kebab had a pleasant grilled flavor, but was burned at one end. A special of prime rib tasted as if it had been on hold for too long, although the portion was generous.
As for two seafood dishes, a special of mahi mahi was nicely cooked while the baked scampi Athenian-style tasted tired.
The vegetable side dishes and the complimentary iceberg salad with dinner are generally good, especially the melange of summer squash, zucchini and tomatoes served one evening. On another occasion, however, a droopy julienne of seasonal vegetables resembled a pile of vegetable peelings.
Two of the daily soups, creamy chicken and cream of cauliflower, were flavorful but not outstanding.
The Odyssey has more than a dessert cart; its own on-premises bakery has display cases right inside the front door to tempt you with cakes and pastries before you even see a menu. It reminds me of a friend who, when he's invited to dinner, ingratiates himself with the children at the table (and riles their parents) by saying matter-of-factly that he always eats dessert first. If you've ever fantasized about such a retro-meal, here's your chance to down a couple of cannolis as a starter. The cannoli filling is luscious, although the shells are stuffed in advance and are, therefore, not as crisp as they should be. I also recommend the dreamy hazelnut roll, the cream puff swan filled with strawberry pastry cream, and the chocolate nougat -- a cross between a brownie and chocolate mousse. Other selections looked better than they tasted, such as the eclair, lemon cake roll, and a stale sfogliatelle filled with orange-flavored custard.
The quality of service varied considerably -- smooth on a slower weekday night and chaotic on a busy weekend when the wrong dishes were served by a harried, inexperienced staff. Thus, if you give Odyssey a try, it might be best to do so during midweek when things are less frantic.