Although I’ve been to Los Angeles three times before, somehow I managed to miss an important cultural issue: the eating early culture. What a shock to discover that Angelinos struggle to find a place to chow down after 10pm, with more prefering to dine at 6 or 7pm.

No doubt that’s best for the digestion, but more than a bit of a shock from a resident of “the-city-that-never-sleeps.” But that was no impediment to enjoying a thoroughly trendy dining experience. Fresh from the review pages of the LA Times, the fabulous couple whose Santa Monica home I’m calling home secured a coveted reservation to a new, high-end Greek restaurant in Manhattan Beach: Petro’s.

So what, one wonders, does “upscale” Greek dining mean?

Wonderfully, it means eliminating those overplayed stereotypes — no Zorba soundtrack, no blue and white interior design, no breakable china, no cries of “opah” or downing of Ouzo shots. Add instead topnotch, artisanal ingredients and an haute cuisine twist on Greek ingredients and you have a taste sensation that will have your tastebuds dancing the Syrtaki, err.. sorry.

We ate family style, sharing perfectly crispy calamari, dip platter, nikos saganaki (sesame encrusted cheese with sultanas), and spanakopita (the latter probably the only item that didn’t wow me although I eagerly anticipated it and the LAT raved about it.) The feta-encrusted rack of lamb was next — oh baby, it’s fabulous!

But best for last, we tackled three, fabulous desserts: these insanely great Greek doughnuts with honey and vanilla ice cream; the vanilla custard filo parcel; and the newly-introduced “bombas”, a chocolate confection dream including ganache, rice crispies and various mousse-like layers.

Conclusion? For food like this, it’s worth eating early and often.

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