Syrtaki Greek Island – Edmonton, AB


Syrtaki Greek Island Restaurant & Pub
16313 – 111 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
(780) 482-2473

It has been almost a decade since I was last in Greece, but those memories still resonate in my mind when I wish for a break from the daily grind.

There are a plethora of Greek restaurants in Edmonton, but my favorite destination is Syrtaki. Named after a Greek folk dance, this restaurant features an attached pub, good sized restaurant, and a private loft available for parties.  The painted murals decorating the interior are not the same as the real views of the Aegean sea, but with enough retsina – I might be able to pretend it’s real.

syrtaki_interior

Sytraki Greek Island Restaurant

View from Santorini Island, Greece

Santorini Island, Greece.

We started with an order of grilled pita and a trio of dips.  Tsatziki (a refreshing combination of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic and dill)  –  Hommus (a bold blend of chick peas, tahini, olive oil and garlic) – and my favorite Tarama (red caviar and bread paté).   These can be ordered individually or in a combination as shown – but I recommend the trio as they all taste great, each with its own unique flavour.

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Athene’s – Vancouver, BC


Athene’s
3618 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 731 4135

After initially having some difficulty finding Athene’s courtesy of my lackadaisical reliance on Google Maps, we found our way to the front entrance on a late weekday evening. Right away, the dimly lit interior and relaxed atmosphere made me feel as if we were being welcomed into the living room of a beloved heritage home. Inside, the place was already abuzz with a few full tables of diners as we were led to an empty table by the front window. Perhaps it was the absence of strong interior lighting and the fact that it was past 8pm already, but I did not get a sense of that tacky, white-everywhere-on-the-walls style of decor that seems to be the aesthetic of choice in too many North American Greek restaurants.

As a shared starter, my dining companion and I ordered a few slices of some wonderful pan-seared Saganaki Greek cheese. It was brought to our table by one of the servers in a small cast iron skillet, and splashed with a big squeeze of lemon before being placed on our table. The crispy golden exterior of the rectangular pieces which gave way to that rich creamy inside upon taking a bite was as good as expected. Frankly, how can you go wrong with this contrasting texture combination, brought to life with the acidity of the fresh lemon!

As a change of pace from the meat-focused choices I made at Candia Taverna, on this night I elected to go for the Kalamaris Skaras (charbroiled, lightly marinated sections of squid tubes) served with sides of Greek Rice, potatoes and of course Greek Salad. The smoky scent from the grill had transferred really well into the pieces of squid, which were not at all rubbery or excessively dried out, which is always a concern with this ingredient when eating out. They were seasoned just right, with hints of garlic and oregano. The accompanying carbohydrates, as ordinary as they always are in Greek cuisine, were fine as filler, and the salad refreshing.

To ensure that I would not leave without having a sampling of what is probably the most popular dish – the Lamb Souvlaki – I had a piece or two from the other plate on the table. They were clearly much better seasoned and bolder in flavor than what I ate at Candia. On top of this, the pieces were so much more moist and juicy inside. Though my sample size is small so far on Foodosophy in terms of my Greek reviews, hands down Athene’s has impressed me the most with how they prepare and cook their lamb. I hope to go back again to confirm this, just to make sure it was not just one lucky night with a skilled cook in the kitchen, and that the consistency is there before giving an all out recommendation.

I know some will say that Greek food in general is not overly creative and pretty standard from place to place. I suppose this could be said of most other cuisine. Though I do appreciate the exciting flavor combinations, and have a weakness for their grilled protein dishes, I do not have it all that often. Though with this far west end of West Broadway being the heart of the Hellenic Community of Vancouver, I am sure there are many fans in the neighborhood, and I still need to check out a few more Greek establishments in the district. Stay tuned…

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Candia Taverna – Vancouver, BC


Candia Taverna Greco-Roman Cuisine
4510 West 10th Avenue
Tel: (604) 228 9512
Hours: 7 days a week, 4pm to midnight

Few ethnic cuisines have such a see-saw effect on me between love and hate as Greek food does.  The reason for this revolves around the use of certain ingredients or cooking methods for which I have a strong fondness for: cheese, grilled meats and seafood, yogurt, garlic, lemon, potatoes.  And on the other hand, my dislike for anything that tastes like licorice such as ouzo and fennel,  and the generous use of things such as mint, grapevine leaves, olives and eggplant that turns me off from many dishes in Greek cuisine.  Over the years, I also grown to enjoy lamb meat which is a popular protein, though this tends to heavily depend on the quality and how well its cooked.

My impressions of the Lamb Souvlaki at Candia Taverna was just so-so.  The pieces were generous in the large serving, though I felt they were under-seasoned, overcooked and dry.  The accompanying rice was really bland, and the grilled vegetables also very ordinary.  The simplicity that I usually associate with Greek food was there, but the bold, bright, over-the-top flavors were not.  I know there are better versions of this in Vancouver, and will aim to seek them out.

As a second dish, we had the Greek Pizza, as recommended to us by our server.  This was a home run!  A full combination of toppings, even those dreaded olives that I usually pick off (I’ve learned when they are cooked, the taste does not bother me as much).  The crust was crispy but not overly so nor burnt, and the base of the pie had a still soft consistency that would fold nicely when lifted from the plate.  The spread of the toppings was generous, as peeling off the layers of cheese revealed, you could see each of the ingredients on every single slice.  I had not thought of a Greek restaurant as being so skilled at serving up pizza, but this place certainly changed my mind.

For atmosphere, Candia Taverna is very homey, rustic and the lighting is set quite low.  The spacing between tables is narrow, making for a cozy setup, especially when the room is full, as it was on this weekday evening.  Larger groups should probably phone ahead and reserve, as there are only a few tables that can really accommodate parties of over six.  Service was friendly and not obtrusive.  I could sense that they have a decent delivery business for their pizzas, judging from the phone calls and staff chatter I could hear while dining.  Based on my experience, the callers know what’s really good on the menu.

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