202 Third St. Cambridge 02141

(617) 868-9098

The location of the Kendall Square Theatre seems to provide a limited choice of dining options for a pre-cinema dinner date. But for those willing to explore the back streets, there are a number of interesting options. Desfina, a neighborhoody Greek joint, is only five minutes from the theatre.

One enters Desfina through a small bar area where locals drop in for a beer and a couple of innings of Sox action. The paper tablecloths give the feel of a Greek taverna and the low ceiling painted bright blue with white cloud smudges conveys the sense of an al fresco dining experience. The air is filled with the convivial babble of Greek conversation as locals tuck into carafes of ouzo.

To immerse ourselves in the mood we started with the pikilia (assorted appetizers). The star of the generous assembly was the tzatziki with its refreshingly well-defined flavor of cucumber. Also in attendance were the usual taramosalata and scordalia as well as a smoky eggplant salad. The wine list has a notable selection including a number of Greek offerings. We eschewed the pine-flavored retsina and instead sampled two wines from the Anastasi Estates, a pleasant Cabernet and an unexpectedly rich balanced red from the indigenous Greek variety Agiorgitiko.

For entree I took the roast lamb, which came as tender leg slices, but unfortunately did not possess the promised herb flavors. My dining companion opted for the mousaka with its rich b├ęchamel sauce, unusually pungent with cinnamon, but with strangely few aubergines. For desert we shared the galaktobouriko, the traditional Greek custard pie, which was dense and filling. We rounded the meal off with Greek coffee, which came black, sweet and strong. Throughout the night, the service was personal and charming, if not professional. Its taste excellent for its price, Desfina is friendly and a conveniently located venue for a pre- or post-cinema dinner.