In my nearly 15 years of reviewing restaurants, I've never come across the Greek hot sauce Akropolis in Newport Beach offers in ramekins on all of its tables. It reminds me of Chinese- and Mexican-style oil salsas, but it has nowhere near the heat: The Greek version tastes more like a dense, slightly spicy barbecue sauce. Red, muddy and wonderful, it's a traditional Greek condiment, the owners say, made from olive oil and peppers—but why don't other local Greek restaurants carry it?
It's all about Akropolis' audience. It's on the Balboa Peninsula, which means the core customers are tourists and bros. As a result, hamburgers and pizzas dominate the menu—the former are half-pound beasts with a fluffy bun and a house dressing featuring a tzatziki tang, the latter more Americanized yet standing out in one of OC's most pizza-heavy ZIP codes with its girth, cheese stretch and crust. That hot sauce is perfect for smearing on the pizza, for covering each hamburger bite, for drowning the fat, crispy French fries. It's such a subtly stunning hot sauce that I didn't even bother with the serranos in my pocket that I usually take when reviewing cuisines I don't associate with heat.
And that sauce goes wonderfully with the rest of Akropolis' menu, which features the gyros and moussakas and spanakopitas you'd expect at any Greek eatery, as well as more refined dishes. Atana shrimp finds the crustacean bathed in a tomato-cream sauce spiked with white wine—tangy, hearty, perfect. Steaks and lamb chops get presented with all the care they would at a Mastro's, but at half the cost and five times the taste. There's even a full pasta menu that'll make you wonder why more Greek restaurants cede the game to the Italians.
It's these touches that show Akropolis aspires to be something more than a mere feed station for the tanned set. So go try that hot sauce—the best thing to hit the Peninsula since Segways.