A great celebrity impersonation is more difficult than it looks. It’s not about sounding, looking, or acting like the person - those are just the elements. It’s about taking those elements and creating something so new and fresh that you don’t even care what the real Dolly Parton is supposed to look and sound like.
A bad impersonation, on the other hand, is nothing more than a copycat. And Avra, the upscale Greek spot in Beverly Hills, is one of the worst in the city. This gaudy mega-restaurant has all the elements that make a Beverly Hills restaurant popular, but it lacks any trace of originality or skill that makes it worth your time and money.
Avra’s massive space is nice to look at - a most crucial part of any successful Beverly Hills restaurant. The issue is that after a few rounds of bland appetizers and terrible service, you realize it’s all smoke and mirrors. This place isn’t a fancy show-stopper - it’s a poorly-run corporate flagship that belongs at the bottom of a Westfield. Save for the giant row of dead fish sitting on ice in the back, there’s absolutely nothing here that makes the experience unique.
You go to Beverly Hills for the people watching. Spago has celebrities eating salmon pizza, and Nate ’N Al has old ladies in Juicy Couture drinking coffee and kahlua at 10am. Avra has a combination of bored tourists and people desperately trying to show off which tax bracket they’re in this year. Avra’s space isn’t fun, the service is frantic, and the overpriced food certainly isn’t going to save the evening.
On paper, Avra is a Greek restaurant, but aside from some mediocre saganaki and a $30 octopus appetizer, it’s really just a seafood spot for people who don’t like flavor. The big dish at Avra - and one that the waitstaff is trained to make sure you order - is their fresh fish by the pound. Sure, it’s exciting to tell yourself and strangers on social media that you ate branzino that woke up this morning in the Mediterranean, but the effect is lost when it tastes like something you could’ve picked up at Gelson’s for half the price. Everything at Avra is underseasoned, unimaginative, and a worse version than something that already exists elsewhere in town.
We’ll take the real Dolly Parton instead.
While Avra’s selection of fresh fish is impressive (there’s everything from New Zealand red snapper to lithrini), you’re basically paying double for its overnight airfare. That would be fine if you could taste a difference, but you can’t.
This stack of fried zucchini is a signature dish here, but tastes like something your roommate who’s never cooked before made for a tailgate.
Taste wise, this appetizer is actually pretty good. We might even order it again if it wasn’t $30 for a few pieces of meat.
Fried cheese should always taste good. Which makes Avra’s version even more disappointing.
These maybe tasted good at one point, but they’re so covered in salt when they arrive at the table, you wouldn’t ever know.
If you must order a drink at Avra, stick to wine. Their cocktails are poorly balanced, watered down, and borderline undrinkable.