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Category: Mediterranean Page 1 of 2

Saving 50% off at Restaurants with “First Table”

There is a new way to save big on your next meal out! Winter is approaching and the most expensive season of the year is around the corner. Meaning the need to save is real and doing so, if and when you can, is on top of most people’s mind.

In comes “First Table” to help. They are a platform that offers diners 50% off the food portion of their bill, when they book a table through their website. The principle is much like saving on last minute hotel bookings, but with food and more leeway. How it works is “First Table” sets aside specific time slots and tables at local restaurants and watering holes. These available tables come with the ability to get half off meals. Unlike other apps that help to fill last minute seatings, you can actually reserve your spot as far as a week in advance. Therefore booking early guarantees you a table and the coveted discount. But be warned there is a $10 booking fee. This is to guarantee that you show up to your reservation, as well as help to offset this never-before-seen steep discount.

The restaurants participating have also been vetted by “First Table”, meaning they have taken the guess work out of choosing your next dinner destination. A few restaurants participating in this program include “Ancora Waterfront”, “Cibo”, “Fable Diner”, “La Mezcaleria”, “Papi’s Oyster Bar”, “Mamie Taylor’s”, “Nicli Pizzeria”, “La Terrazza”, “Cascade Room”; and where we were today: “The Greek by Anatoli” in Yaletown.

Tonight, a group of local food bloggers and myself, gathered for dinner at “The Greek”, to be the first to experience “First Table” in Vancouver, a night before. They officially make their North American launch tomorrow, November 14th, 2019.

I am already a fan of the authentic Greek Restaurant, so to be able to enjoy its romantic string lights and modern decor, with the ability to indulge was a treat. As I mentioned earlier, the discount is not the typical 10-25% off (which doesn’t do much when tax and gratuity alone is more that). Diners who use their services get a whopping 50% off all food items. A discount so steep and flashy, that I have never seen anything else like it. A discount so good that we found ourselves fully indulging, and ordering more than we planned to or thought we could finish. The following is what we feasted on.

To start, I got my appetite going with the “Anatoli Caesar”. There aren’t discounts given on this, but with a grilled prawn garnish and rosemary infused gin, this Cesar is worth trying. Made with tomato juice, greek spices, and a celery salt rim, it was salty and spicy and drank like a gazpacho.

The “Dip taster” allows you to try 3 dips for $10. Which means you get to try 3 appetizers, (which includes two pieces of grilled pita), for only $5, after using “First Table”.

The “Homous” is chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and parsley. A tasty rendition, but the citrus was a little strong.

The “Taramosalata” was described as a
“tangy caviar spread, but it didn’t look like it. I expected it fishier and more pasty. Instead, I found myself confusing it with the hummus below in colour and taste. Good, but I would have liked something different to compare and contrast alongside the other spreads.

I liked the “Tzatziki + Avocado” dip the most. Although I don’t think I got much avocado mixed in with the cucumber, onion, garlic, yogurt, and herbs. Tangy and refreshing, this served as a great bite in between some of our heavier morsels. Much like the salad below.

My favourite salad is a Greek salad, and this might very well be my favourite version of that. It eats more like a meal, than a side to rice and potatoes. Fresh tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onions, feta from Greece, capers, and olives. It elevated what I knew of the salad, and gave it more character. I especially loved the texture of the thinly sliced cucumber, it offered a more enjoyable eating experience, than that of the large chunks I am use to. I can see myself recreating this at home, or at least the vegetable prep portion.

I typically don’t like spanakopitas because of their spinach filling, but will make the exception for these. Dare I say, this might be the best spinach stuffed, baked filo pastry I have ever had. The spinach leaves are minced into an enjoyable paste, made fresh with mint and feta, you don’t get any of the wilted leafy vegetable texture I dislike so much. I just wish it wasn’t so oily, but at least it stayed crispy well after we dung into it. I also found it tasty enough that we didn’t need the dip it was served with.

Their calamari is also really good. The popular seafood appetizer is served as thick slices of squid that are well breaded and genuinely enjoyable to chew through. Crispy and light with the balancing zestiness of tzatziki, this is one you went back for.

For those who have never visited “The Greek”, I highly recommend trying their “Octopothi”. It showcases the grill and char flavours that this restaurant is well known for. Grilled octopus and crispy potatoes seasoned in olive oil and a lemon caper dressing.

I was less enthused with the “Rabbit Kalamakia”. For presentation it won top marks, but as for the taste, it was missing something. Three popsicles of rabbit loin and lamb sausage, wrapped in bacon. With the creamy mayonnaise based sauce, the fresh tomatoes. and the strong salty flavour of bacon, it reminded me of a BLT. And had me wanting a starchy base to complete that mouth memory. This one is for sharing, bold and salty, it is a flavour that wear one you, after one skewer. Best with the rice pilaf in our platter below.

Great for sharing, their platters come served in a metal tray: your chosen meat with herbed rice, roasted lemon potatoes, and grilled seasonal vegetables. Our “Pidakia Platter” featured perfectly prepared, flame grilled lamb chops. Well flavoured, each had you pulling meat from bone with your hands and teeth. The perfect bite with a spoon full of jus soaked rice, and soften carrots, zucchini, tomato, eggplant, and okra.

What seemed like a lot of food was so good that we finished it all with no problem. Leaving enough room for desserts. And with “First Table”, these too are 50% off.

We shared two desserts, one vanilla based and one chocolate. I choose the “Ekmek” thinking it was a lighter offering, but found it rich in its own way. Vanilla custard with shredded kataifi crust, whip cream, and pistachio. What we got was not what I expected, reading the description. It was mostly whipped cream, I didn’t get the luscious custard I had envisioned. The shredded crunchy shards and the chopped nuts at least gave it some textural interest.

I found the “Chocolate Mousse” too bitter, however I am not a fan of chocolate to begin with. It is wonderfully presented as two towering scoops in a deep fried filo cup, drizzled with plenty of caramel sauce. The crispy shell offered some crunch, but both left me wanting some fruit like strawberries to cut into its richness.

In short, thanks to “First Table” we were able to feast at a great restaurant like “The Greek by Anatoli”. And not only did we order our favourite menu items, but we also selected a few new one we might not otherwise get to try, if we had to pay full price for it.

For more information on how you can sign up and take advantage of these savings visit the link below. On top of the 50% off, in celebration of its North American launch, “First Table” is offering new members a $5 credit, until November 30th, 2019. Use the promo code “FIRSTTABLECA” to start saving! And do it soon, because at prices like these, I am sure available seating will be booked up soon.

https://www.firsttable.com/ca

 

THE GREEK
1043 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P9
604-979-0700
thegreekbyanatoli.com

Anar Persian Cuisine

Today I was in Steveston in the afternoon. A walk around this city within the city, had me realizing how many different food options are available here. Not just the Instagram famous ones, or the ones that make it into television shows. But a wide array of cuisines, including the only Greek restaurant left in all of Richmond, “Kisamos”.

Although today we would be trying one of the newest restaurants to call Steveston home. A restaurant so new that they are still waiting on a permit to be able to showcase their entire food menu, which includes kabobs. They are the only ones in the area offering authentic Persian cuisine. But are already a familiar face in Richmond, once residing within “President’s Plaza”. Their new location only has them open between 12-5pm, so be sure to come for an earlier dinner or regular lunch. (Although, I am told that majority of the businesses in Steveston does close at 5pm).

Located in what use to be Steveston’s old court house, this refurbished building has been a part of history since 1925. Inside, the restaurant is pretty modern. Dark furniture over a black and white checkered floor. A few scenic photos on the wall, a shelf of books, and a laser cut room separator with matching art pieces. All in all it didn’t really have a theme, just more a collection of items to fill up the space; including the novelty salt and pepper shakers on each table. We were the first group of people to come in for lunch, a little after 12pm on a Wednesday. A few more came behind us.

The menu had dishes listed in their traditional names, with descriptions of what you can expect from them in English, underneath. Once again, this was only half of their intended menu, the full one will be available at the beginning of November. Without much experience or photos to reference, we relied on the lone employee who looked after the front of house. She listed all of their popular items, and we went with all her suggestions.

We started with their “Ab anar lemonade” with chia seeds. It wasn’t what we anticipated from a lemonade. It was sweeter than expected and rose water focused. It served as a great palate cleaner with our meal to come. Refreshing after all the other heavier flavours. I especially liked the texture the chia seeds offered: a fun chew.

We followed it with bread and two dips. Hummus made from chickpeas, garlic, fresh lemon juice, tahnini (sesame seed), and paprika. A solid rendition, great with the basket of warm dimpled bread sprinkled with sesame seeds.

The airy and foamy bread also made the perfect base for the “Kask o bademjoon”, grilled eggplant and whey, seasoned with turmeric and mixed mints; topped with caramelized onion. The fried onions were so fragrant, they added a nice crunch to the creamy yet chunky paste.

For our entree we shared the “Baqhali polow”. Braised lamb shank with dill, and fava bean steamed saffron basmati rice. The lamb and all the meat they use is certified halal, so tender it easily sloughed off the bone. Full of flavour, but a little too salty for me, luckily the rice was the perfect base. The beans added a different texture from the firm and long basmati kernels. And the side salad offered a crispy and tangy break. All in all a wonderfully done dish I would recommend.

With all that garlic in the 3 dishes above, the saffron rose water pistachio ice cream was the perfect way to clean our mouths and end our meal. This was a lighter treat with the floral essence of rose dominating. It reminded me of Turkish delight. The chunks of pistachio sprinkled over top and embedded within the ice cream offered some great crunch.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A great offering to the Steveston community. Something different and something delicious. Don’t deny your cravings.

ANAR
12051 Third Ave, Richmond, BC V7E 3T1
(778) 834-1707
anargrill.com

Hydra Cafe & Bar

The reviews have been only so-so for this place, but the decor alone is worth visiting for. They are the newer dining option attached to the “Exchange Hotel”, in downtown Vancouver. This space was design specifically for their Mediterranean restaurant.

You are in awe walking in and climbing their spiralling staircase, up to the main dining area. They do have a secondary bar/lounge space downstairs, but the second floor with vaulted ceiling is the place to be.

I had arrived early and my girl friend was running late, so I was more than happy to spend the additional time waiting for her, by their bar. A handsome arch framed their tiered assortment, well stocked and well presented before a back splash of half circles, layered like scales. This spoke well to their aquatic theme. A chandelier of plastic fish floated over a table, large paintings of wild waves in varying degrees of blue drew your eyes to the wall, and a television screen broadcasting picturesque scenes of the Mediterranean furthered the mood. Turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and not a cloud in the sky. The music, upbeat and lively, like at a tropical resort night club. All this made them a great place for a drink, or to begin a bar crawl at.

On the way to the single stalled washrooms, be sure to take in their raw bar. Back lit mirrors hang over a trough of ice. In it whole fish peak through, speaking to the freshness of their seafood assortment. We were sure to sample from this with their “chill platter”, but more on that below.

By the hotel entrance to the restaurant is a living wall, greens crawling around the name of the restaurant in white LED. Under it a Möet branded tub and life persevere, that I had to take advantage of as a photo op.

Back at the bar, I order my first cocktail of the night. The name spoke well to the drink: “holiday”. Made with summer fruits and bright flavours, this play on the margarita featured fresh watermelon purée, cazadores reposado, martini bitters, ginger, and fresh lime. It was finished with a coconut sugar, and a maldon rim.

My next cocktail was at our reserved table, the “Fig” was a strong drink, that delivered on its name. A smokey sipper with fig at its core, and an extra bite as garnish. Dewar’s white label scotch, fig syrup, angostura bitters, citrus oil, and fig garnish.

The cocktail after that was “Tart”. And unlike the “Fig”, this was a name that did not perfectly describe what you were getting in a drink. Like its colour, it tasted like lavender and flowers. Bombay sapphire, cassis, kefir, fresh lemon and lime, honey, egg whites, and black toasted sesame.

We then decided to try a Greek wine, for drinks 4 and 5. We reasoned out that it would be more economical to get a bottle to share, as opposed to ordering it by the glass. This was “Monograph” from Peloponnese, Greece; it is an Assyrtiko. This was what was suggested when we asked for something similar to pinot gris.

And although it is ill advised, we ordered a “Chill Platter” to accompany all our drinks. Normally you’d want some carbs or something more solid to balance yourself with. But my girl friend and I have an on going thing where we aim to try all the seafood towers in the city. This one comes with prawns, oysters, ceviche sashimi, pickled octopus, tartare, and accoutrements for $105. For those who need even more, you can add on a pound of crab for $45.

The prawns were large and juicy, but plain. They needed a dip, and we found it in the sauces for the oysters, on the top tier.

These were Kushi and Royal miyagi oysters. And normally I can barley tell the difference between types of oysters. But the Royal miyagi oysters were deliciously sweet, the sweetest I have ever had. I chased it with a very clean and crisp tasting kushi oyster.

The ceviche sashimi was very dill forward, it over powered the herbed paprika, salmon and celery for crunch. This is the type of seasoning I would expect in a potato salad.

I liked the tanginess of the pickled octopus, I just wish it wasn’t served cold. Its already chewy texture would be butterier if warmer.

The tartare was bland by comparison, especially when eating it with the cucumber. The caper gave it some salt, but it felt lost amongst the others.

The crab was very water logged, shredded and soaking in olive oil with tomato and parsley. It was also too acidic and vinegary for me to enjoy the natural sweetness of the crab.

The broad beans were a nice little palette cleanser. Served chill with feta for a sandy texture. It was best enjoyed with the hard pita points, made harder with its time in the ice.

Overall, there was quite a bit of food on these two tiers. Plenty to keep you causally nibbling for an hour plus. And when anything got too dull, the sauces and minuet served with the oysters, as mentioned earlier, was enough to do the trick.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Given how much we spent on a seafood tower, I felt it should have lived up to the cost. And for that I wouldn’t necessarily clamour to visit again, but can safely recommend them for an amazing hotel bar to see and be seen at. Don’t deny your cravings.

HYDRA
475 Howe St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2B3
(604) 416-0880
hydracafe.com

Happy Hour at The Greek by Anatoli

Today I would be the plus one to Jacquline of “Pork Ninjas”, Instagram and blog fame. We were at “The Greek by Anatoli”, attending a media event, highlighting their new happy hour menu. This would be a new feature that the restaurant would host daily from 2-5pm. And today we would get a sneak peak of things to come.

As a disclaimer, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The restaurant was closed for the event and we, along with a group of others were able to enjoy the space fully. I have visited “The Greek” before and then was unable to immerse myself in their wonderful seating area. They had tables available on the patio and upper deck, but it was the ones at the very back of the restaurant, surrounding by black and white photos and under strung up lights, that was the place to be. Today I would get to be surrounded by it all, across from their island bar.

Alexi the owner of “The Greek”, showed us warming hospitality, and shared tidbits of the restaurant and himself during our stay. He greeted us all and gave us some background information on his restaurant, speaking with passion for his business, which is always a good attribute to have as a business owner.

The back wall was plastered over with a black and white mural of old Greece. The wall to the right was hung with actual family photos. They offered a glimpse into his childhood and his heritage. His family’s first restaurant opened its doors in 1984, this venture in Yaletown was his alone, and the second to have the name. They are also working on acquiring a three location in the near future.

As the sun peaked out, the patio with its picnic tables were offered as a viable space for us to dine in. However I was too enamoured by the ambiance we had indoors. The strung together lights and the hanging bulbs bathed the room in a golden luminescent glow. It offers a great vibe for a romantic dinner or a girls night out, helped along by a playlist of smooth vocals and up beats.

The food was described as being simple and clean, strong flavours like how grandmother does it. All within a more upbeat spot. They successfully combined traditional food with modern aesthetics.

The happy hour menu is an assembly of popular Greek appetizers, smaller servings perfect for sharing, so you can order them all and try a little bit of each. All the food is $6 per plate normally, but between March 27 to the 31st what is listed will only be $2 a plate. Our servings below may be a little different than what you would typically get. I have tried my best to ask questions and list those differences here, so that when you come and try them for yourself you know what you will be getting, and won’t be disappointed if it differs from what you see here. And at $2 a plate, I know you will make ever effort to come by during that week. You can’t even buy a loaf of bread for $2.

When asked about the decision to host happy hour, Alexis was honest. He acknowledge that he would not be making a profit during this time slot, but for him it was about bringing people in, and having them stay in the area after work. Where you see a lot of that in downtown, you don’t have the same gusto for happy hour in Yaletown. So this was his rally cry, his attempt to fill seats and gather the community.

We started with “Keftedes”, traditional pan fried meatballs served in a tomato sauce. Although I would classify the sauce as more of the juice to a tomato salsa. Watery, but a great accompaniment of chunks and liquid, to the hearty and thoroughly seasoned meatballs. Which were tasty, but did border on being a little too salty for my tastes.

I am not a fan of Dolmathes in general. “Dolmathes” are grape vine leaves stuffed with beef and rice, and these are cooked in avgolemeno broth. I don’t like the texture of the wilted and soggy leaves, even though they were prepared very tender here. Their pickled flavour isn’t appealing to me either. But the filling was nice. The beef was prepared like the meatball above, having a similar flavour, and show of the same quality.

I much preferred the “Spanakopita”, although like above, it’s wilted greens are a turn off to me visually and textural. I just don’t like way wilted and cooked greens feel on my tongue. But if I had to eat a serving of it, this would be the batch to force myself through. Fresh spinach, feta and herbs, wrapped in filo and baked. It was baked crispy and stuffed full. I really liked the flavour of the sharp cheese. So tasty, that it didn’t really need the tzaziki sauce that came with it on the size. When you order it, you will normally get two pies, just like the other two portion sizes above.

The “Calamari” was your standard battered and fried pieces of squid. It was your classic flavour served crispy with tzatziki for tang.

The “True Greek pork” souvlaki was the most memorable. Its name is due in part of the fact that pork is the true meat of Greece and traditional souvlaki is only prepared using pork. Here cubes of meat are skewered and grilled for a blackened char, then served kalamaki style on a pita with tzatziki on the side. Once again, when ordering this, you will only get enough for two tastes. The meat was a little tough, but well seasoned, it paired perfectly with the fluffy pita and the dill in the tzatziki. Definitely a good deal considering it’s $11 normally and here it is either $6, or $2 for that week.

During happy hour and their launch week the “Homous” with chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and parsley is set at $4. It is served with with a warm buttery pita for dipping into. This was my favourite dish. The homous was really delicious. A little chunky, and a lot delicious. It wasn’t so aggressive that it masked the taste of the butter on the pita. I think I ate two whole pita and certainly licked cleaned the homous dish.

And happy hour isn’t the same without drinks, so their menu also includes two $4 drink options and $6 glasses of red or white.

However, today we were able to try a few of their regular cocktails. Like the classic brunch ceasar with a grilled shrimp and pickled bean. The shrimp had a great grill, but the drink itself could have used more spices and a whole lot more tomato.

The juicy watermelon mojito as a visual delight with an actual watermelon slice for garnish. It was very mint forward with the refreshing quality of real watermelon juice.

Not on the happy hour menu, but offered regularly, we were treated to the most beautiful serving of salad that I have ever had. “Greek salad” with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, red onions, goat feta from Greece, capers, and olives. All the ingredients were chopped small and sliced thin for a more reasonable bites. It easily allowed you to get a little bit of everything on your fork. Including the addition of fried kale chips and micro greens, for an even greater aesthetic touch. Though be warned, this was done special for us, and not typically seen when you order it for yourself.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I have said it after my first visit and I will say it again after this one. I like the place for dressier style Greek food in an equally dressed up setting. And now with happy hour specials, there is another reason to visit. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE GREEK
1043 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P9
604-979-0700
thegreekbyanatoli.com
The Greek by Anatoli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Greek by Anatoli

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This is one of those restaurants you want to walk in hungry for. You can smell the grilling of fragrant spices as soon as you approach the threshold. This scent was a promise of delicious meal to come, and they delivered.

We put in the effort, made a reservation early on, but were given probably the worst table in the house. It was close to the open door entrance, a step up on a platform, overlooking the rest of the restaurant. The half we were forced to stare longingly at was definitely the more appealing of the two sides. Set under parallel lines of light bulbs, against a painted white brick wall, decorated with black and white framed photography, with overlooking shelves dedicated to large bottles of grey goose. And here we were on our cramped two top, in the awkward middle of the terrace with all other tables sandwiching us; lusting to be near the back wall with its panorama of a Greek cityscape. When I asked to be seated there, on the empty tables instead, I was told that they were for those with reservations, we had a reservation.

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We disliked our given seat enough to brave the colder weather, grabbing a seat outside on their covered patio instead. Though with heat lamps and woollen blankets we were kept plenty warm. It was all share style tables, with couples claiming the ends of each for more intimacy. We were one such.

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I started with the “Aphrodite signature cocktail”. I thought it most fitting for this Greek restaurant, in name and with its assembly of ingredients. Sour cherry, white rum, a dash of Greek yogurt, honey, and cinnamon. I could smell the warmth of cinnamon as it was placed before me, and taste the tart tang of the yogurt upon my first sip. I found this unique concoction another new one to add to my collection of flavour combinations, whereas my guest likened it to medicine. Although, based on the bubble gum colouring, I did expect it to be a sweeter drink. But it was more like the yogurt beverage, calpis. Once again, one to try, but not really complimentary to anything we ate below.

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My guest had the “Kreatopita” during her last visit and wanted me to try it today. It was a uniquely shaped meat filled pie. A coil of pastry surrounding minced meat and saganaki cheese. It is baked to a crisp and then topped with sesame seeds. You eat it by pulling segments off, one part at a time. The filling had the texture of a crumbly sausage, it matched well with the flaky pastry, but together it was quite rich. The pool of watered down tzaziki was most helpful in breaking up the one tone taste, as well as adding some freshness. But at the end of the day, this was a heavy start, and a dish better left as a side to a entree.

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The “Octopotothi” was nice, but like its co-appetizer it was on the heavier. This was grilled octopus seasoned with olive oil and a lemon caper dressing. I wished the chunks were cut down to a more manageable bite. They were too chewy for my liking, and lacked any flavour besides salt. The side of crispy potatoes, red peppers, and whole olives helped in the flavour department. But the menu mentioned that it would also be served with pita, however none never came. The pita would have been most helpful as a base to dull some of the saltiness.

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The country lamb is a feast for two, despite its intended serving of one. It was came with the feeling of home cooking, served in its handsome metal tray. But it was the lemon wrapped in a semi permeable cloth that stole the show for me. It make the dish more elegant, dressing it up. The lamb shoulder was described as being “braised until it melted off the bone”, and that it did. It flaked off and had a good amount of tenderizing fat. It was best taken with spoonfuls of the flavourful rice that sat beneath it, and tender roasted vegetables that surrounded it. Broccoli florets, carrots, potato wedges, onion, turnip chunks, cherry tomatoes, corn on the cob. Everything was fully seasoned, with plenty of herbs in the rub of the meat and mixed in with everything else.

And best of all, there was plenty leftovers for another meal and a half. I just didn’t like how they decided to pack what we couldn’t finish up. They put the meat pie and lamb together in one box. And sadly, the former was made soggy by the latter.

Our meal ended with a liquorice mint, and an apology from our server when we asked for our bill to be split. She was just as polite throughout our whole meal. She read our cues on when to check in and when to not engage. And made sure that my glass was never left empty. She made our spacious patio seats the most inviting in the house.

The washrooms were located in the hallway of the space that the restaurant shared. You got in with a four digit lock code. The number was pasted on the door leading out of the restaurant.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The food, ambience, and service were all on point. One of the places I will recommend for a date night, craving Greek. There is much more on the menu that I wanted to try, so will need to return a few more times in order to do so. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE GREEK
1043 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P9
604-979-0700
thegreekbyanatoli.com

Salchica

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I have never tried, or do I have much experience with Northern African or Middle Eastern cuisine. So today I was excited to have the opportunity to explore both a little more through a media event, host by local food blogger, “Foodgressing”.

This was a well run event where local food lovers who not only eat, but photograph and write about their meal came together to catalogue a shared meal, in support of a newer restaurant.

As a disclaimer, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue. No one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

Sadly the restaurant was dim and set with yellow bulbs, so excuse the quality and tone of my photos. They not only washed the food out, but didn’t do the plate justice. But as always, I try to bring my readers the most authentic look in to each of my experiences. This is so that you know what you will be getting from a restaurant in food, setting, and service. I do not edit any of the photos on this blog, and like it is with me, what you see is what you get. Media tasting or not. However there were a few bloggers who do put in the extra work to give you, their readers and followers, a more beautiful photo. Even going so far as to bring each plate served outside, for a natural lighting photo shoot, I suggest visiting them for some more delicious looking plates.

Located on the Granville entertainment strip, the restaurant doesn’t immediately stand out. A white awning with its red bull logo framing the name. A couple of chairs and a sandwich board out front. Nothing that would stop me in my tracks, and usher me in.

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Inside, a miniature bar in red fronts the place. The narrow room has tables and chairs on either ends. On the right is a unique high top-counter installation. It is a table with piping for legs, supported by another pipe attached to the wall. You sit on shelves with and back cushions glued to the wall. I appreciated its creative assembly. But as a larger group we were seated at a long table made out of all the smaller two tops pushed together.

Despite where you sit, everyone earns a view of the kitchen’s operations towards the back. A stainless steel counter fronting a ceiling to floor brick wall. This handsome wall is branded with their name. With a ding of a bell and a window pass, dishes move from kitchen to service within seconds.

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The room was decorated in pickling preserves. Mason jars and reused pickle jugs on the counter and on the shelves along the wall. Carrot shards, whole nugget potatoes, and cauliflower florets, out of the ones I could identify within the murky waters. The vibe as a whole was more casual and mellow, despite the dance music with poppy beats.

The menu was an easy to read and a well explained listing of appetizers, salads, dips, pickles, and entrees. They even made their own healthy shakes from vegetables and fruit. Knowing that many may not be familiar with their cuisine, they took the time to describe each dish with detailed sentences, which I appreciated. I like knowing what I put in my mouth and fully enjoying all the ingredients they make mention to. Not having a list, denies me of that oral pleasure.

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We started off with their popular dips with and bread. The serving allows you to choose three dips from their traditional dip menu, which comes with a side of toasted focaccia bread. As it is typically with such dishes, there was not enough bread for all the dip provided. The bread gave each bite most of its flavour, with the dip being more of an accent point.

The red coloured “Harrisa” is a spicy traditional Moroccan paste made with dried red pepper, garlic, chilli, and paprika. Given its ingredient make up and bold hue, there is no surprise that this was prick your tongue spicy.

The green coloured “Sahuog” was another spicy and traditional dip, but this time its origin is yemenite. It is a sauce made of green pepper, cilantro, and garlic.

The off white “Garlic mayo herb” dip was helpful in pulling the other two together, and decreasing the tinge of burning they left me. It is made with Italian parsley, cilantro, spinach, and garlic aioli.

We ordered more of their focaccia bread and had it with the four salads below. Especially when I consider two of them as more dips than salad.

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“Baba ghanoush” is roasted mashed eggplant in a tahini lemon garlic seasoning. It was the perfect paste-like texture to scoop up with bread. It was served cold and creamy with mild chunks.

The “Hummus” is made in house. It is a roasted chickpea dip topped with garbanzo beans and extra virgin olive oil. It tasted exactly as you expected it would. It too is paste-like and chalky thick.

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The “Tabbouleh” salad was made with bulgar (a kind of dried cracked wheat), finely chopped tomatoes, cilantro, Italian parsley, and mint. Then seasoned in olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. It was a sharp salad full of refreshing mint and herby bites. A great side when needing a break from something to spicy or rich with meat.

The shredded carrot and lettuce coleslaw was not mentioned on menu. It too made a great side, something to give you a break in between more flavourful bites, shame it was served as a starter instead. And alone I found it too creamy with overwhelming mayo and too tangy with excessive vinegar.

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The “Chicken skewers” were marinated and grilled chicken breast, served with their in house made garlic chipotle mayo. The chicken was a little over charred and had an acrid taste. However the creamy mayo highlight was more than enough to have you forgetting all about that. The dip had a nice light flavour that also complimented the vegetable served as garnished. Together with the chicken, it made for a more comprehensive bite with creamy, fresh, salty and meaty; all rolled into one.

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The “Antipasti” is oven roasted vegetables topped with extra virgin olive oil. The assortment included eggplant, bell pepper, yam, carrot, and zucchini. They made eating vegetables fun with this one. Nicely grilled with a smokey flavour, but it could have been served warmer. The sweetness and the starch of the yam made them my favourite.

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The “Sweet liver pate” was not the most appealing dish. Not only because it looked like mud, or worst smeared on to a plate; but because you don’t typically use the descriptor “sweet” for ground up organ meat. This was stir fried liver and onions made into a pâté, flavoured with cinnamon and a bay leaf. And served with toasted focaccia bread and a homemade cherry tomato jam. I couldn’t wrap my head around this one. You tried it and went back for more to decide whether you liked it or not. The liver was pronounced, the sugar used was only so effective in hiding its distinct flavour. The one isn’t for me.

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The “Beef kebabs” were wrapped around a cinnamon stick and grilled. They were served over their baked potato cream purée, with a side of roasted tomatoes and shallot onions. Then all of it was topped with a sweet reduced balsamic sauce. This extra sauce was unnecessary, as it was an already pretty tasty version of meat and potatoes. Similarly the cinnamon added nothing but aesthetics to the meat. The beef was cooked to a nice pink, but was left on the drier side. I would have liked a nice gravy or jus to moisten things up with.

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The “Cherry salad” was a nice refresher. Made with three colours of tomatoes, lettuce, red onion, mint and feta cheese shavings. It reminded me of a sweet Greek salad, but with the refreshing twist of mint. And more importantly it was well dressed, every element was glistening from the vinaigrette, with plenty more to dip into at the bottom.

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“Couscous maraguez”. “Couscous” is small steamed balls of semolina, usually served with a stew on top. Today that stew included traditional Moroccan spicy sausage made with fresh Alberta lamb, and a reduced harrisa sauce. “Harrisa”, is the dip from above made with dried red pepper, garlic, chilli, and paprika. It being reduced meant it was less spicy, and the couscous also helped to mellow out the heat. The stew was compared to a ragu, especially with the soften vegetables. The sausage had a great flavour, but I wished it wasn’t so tough. It was dry and gritty to bite through. When I think sausage, I crave the kind that leave juices dripping down my chin (there is no way I can describe the feeling, without sounding dirty, this is my third edit). And sadly the same sausage, with the same dryness made an appearance in the dish below.

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“Shakshouka maraguez” was the same spicy maraguez sausages surrounded by slow cooked spicy tomato sauce and poached eggs, on a sizzling plate. It was served with more focaccia bread and a tahini sauce, that wasn’t necessary and that we didn’t use. Once the sizzling subsided we stirred the eggs in, the yolk offering some moisture to aid in the dryness of the sausage, but both it and the stewed tomato could only go so far.

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The “Spring chicken” was my favourite. Moroccan seasoning, marinaded chicken strips grilled with fresh rosemary leaves, served with carrot rice and drizzled with date molasses. The chicken was so tender and juicy that compared to it, the rice was too dry and hard. But not enough for me to stop eating it. The zesty chicken went really well with the flavour of the rice. The sticky syrup helped to add some moisture to it and give things a hint of sweetness.

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Our meal ended with the only dessert they offer, “Malabi”. “Malabi” is a traditional Arabic dessert of corn flour and milk, soaking in rose water and maple syrup, topped coconut shavings and crushed peanuts and almonds. It looks like custard, with a slightly firmer texture, but is like nothing I have had. The rose water was strong and distinct, it definitely was the front facing flavour. I would have preferred a light cream instead, and less sweet maple syrup. One guest was allergic to almonds, and they were kind enough to prepare a whole new serving for her without it.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A great place to grab a quick bite at, and expand your cultural horizons within. Many of the flavours and plates I have never had and have never tasted, definitely worth taking a second look at. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SALCHICHA
1065 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1L4
604-620-0306
salchicha.ca
Salchicha Meat Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Donair Town

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My partner was looking for convenience eating, a quick bite to tie him over in between meals. He often finds donairs a good solution, so we found ourselves stopping here. “Donair Town”, with its orange and blue awning and and its name in red between matching flames.

This was fast food made to order with a few small tables for those who didn’t enjoy eating upright and on the go. The sun allowed for outdoor seating, in front of their all glass exterior; and their mezzanine inside allowed for a more private setting upstairs, by the television. Both available if you didn’t like the table directly across the service counter, with the view of butts waiting in line, obstructing your meal.

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The shop was set up very functionally.
Faux stone floors and matching counters, made for uneven surfaces to walk on and lead against. The only elements of decoration was the painted mural of the Mediterranean, buildings of stark white against blue skies and bluer waters. And a storage closet painted in a similar blue and white hue with a thatched roof upstairs.

They fit the cuisine well consider donairs are Greek or Turkish in origin, known as “doners” and “gyros”. The donairs that we know today and would be enjoying now, were an adaptation from them and of the “Halifax” donair. “Halifax donairs” are characterized by having a very sweet sauce. This sauce is made from condensed milk, sugar, garlic, and vinegar. This concept was brought over to Canada by a Turkish immigrant.

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The counter where they made their wrapped meals was right by the door. Behind it, the typical hunks of meat spinning on a rod, waiting to be craved and served up. They were available in chicken, beef, and lamb. The process begins with a pita, it is filled with one of the three meats above. To it they add a bevy of fresh vegetables and hearty sauces. The pre-cut ingredients are kept cool in metal bins for an easy grab and add add method. You can craft each to your liking with lettuce, onions, cucumber, pickles tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, tzatziki sauce, tabouli, hot sauce, and a garlic sauce.

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But they also had unique combinations with equally unique names for those who didn’t feel like being creative. Like the “Halifax” with only onion, tomato, and that sweet sauce that I mentioned above. The “Lebanese” came with tabouli and hummus. The “Hawaiian” offered pineapples that their sweet sauce. The “Caribbean” came with jalapeños. And the “Greek” with olives and feta cheese. For vegetarians they had a “mushrooms” donair with onions. They even had a donair poutine, their ingredients and sauces over fries.

Once tightly packed and rolled within the pita, the pound of food gets some time on the grill. This warms it all up and melds it all together. This is one of the only places that did this, and my partner liked them for it.

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He went for a chicken donair and to it he added the “regular fixings” and a request for the sweet sauce. The “regular” ingredients were listed as lettuce, onions, cucumber, and tomatoes, with your choice of sauce. So he was very disappointed to bite in and discover red and yellow peppers in the mix. He does not like peppers, and didn’t know to specify “no peppers”, they were not mentioned any where. The result was, after one bite it became my donair.

It was a heavy bundle with plenty of sauce, a messy affair needing lots of napkins. Stuffed full with charred chicken, lettuce, and red and yellow peppers. The sweetness of the sauce played off the sweetness of the grilled peppers well for a harmonious sweet and tangy flavour profile. I took just the one bite, and it left a lingering taste to come. I was an interesting mix with the sweetness, one that I didn’t mind trying and could continue to finish. But it isn’t one that I would order again. I prefer my donairs with the tang of sour cream or ranch dressing.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It was a quick stop, the food came fast, it was eaten fast. The service was efficient and the place clean enough. Your standard donair place with no complaints. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DONAIR TOWN
1793 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C9
604-569-1124
Donair Town Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tibisti Grill aka Lebanese Cuisine

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I admittedly am ignorant when it comes to geography, a fact that was pointed out by my partner, and one that I am trying to improve on though travel and trying new things. Which brings me to “Lebanese Cuisine” the Lebanese restaurant serving Lebanese cuisine, in case you have missed that. The name on the awning is “Lebanese Cuisine”, but online they are referred to as “Tibisti Grill”. I have limited experience in this cuisine type. This would be only my third time trying Lebanese food, and only the second Lebanese specialty restaurant I have visited.

According to Wikipedia, “Lebanese cuisine includes an abundance of starches, whole grain, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood… Fats are consumed sparingly and poultry is eaten more often than red meat. When red meat is eaten it is usually as lamb or goat’s meat. Cooking is done with copious amounts of garlic and olive oil, with lemon juice as a popular seasoning. Olive oil, herbs, garlic and lemon are typical flavours found in the Lebanese diet. It is similar to the diets of most Mediterranean countries”. It sounded delicious and I figured a buffet would be the best way to dabble in all of the above. Though they also offer an a la carte menu as well.

I found the name of the restaurant direct and to the point, much like the exterior and interior of the building. On the outside coloured posters depicted dishes served and listed their names in red. Maui ribs and roast lamb meals, souvlaki in beef or chicken, NY steak; wraps in chicken, beef, or lamb; and sides like baba ganoush, garlic sauce, hummus, tabbouleh, and baked potatoes.
“Baba ghanoush” is a dish of cooked eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and various seasonings. “Tabbouleh” is a Arabian vegetarian dish traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur and onion. It is seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.

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Inside the restaurant it was just a seating area and a buffet line. There were no decorations, no need for art or for objects to fill up the space. They gave you only what you needed to enjoy a quick meal with. A clean restaurant, with sturdy furniture, and an assortment of pre-made dishes to help yourself to. The only thing I can say, is that with so much of its space left empty and un-used, it seems like the restaurant was designed and chosen with the possibility of expansion in mind. The back of the restaurant was cleverly hidden behind cubicle-like barriers; a freestanding wall separating seat from sight. They hid the unused space. Empty refrigeration units, empty racks, and permits to operate in sheet protectors. It wasn’t the most appealing view, but we only had to see it when we paid, and by that time it was too late to change our mind about staying for dinner.

Smaller buffets get a bad rep. The thinking is that less business means more food left over and more food going to waste. So to cut costs and to reduce waste they may either reuse leftovers or prepare smaller portions, meaning you are skeptical of how fresh things actually are. And then there is the understanding that buffet food will always be a little over cooked, as it is steeping in the heated dish. Though not every one is so particular about eating over cooked food. You really have to consider, what you are getting for the price you are paying. We were here for their lunch buffet, which gave less variety at $3 less per person, when compared to the dinner buffet. $11.95 for lunch, $14.99 per person for dinner.

All that some need is a cheap and easy lunch or dinner. Food available right away, a hassle free system; and good selection of meat, veggies, and carbs. So the question is do you tip? And how much do you tip for a buffet where you are literally doing some of the service leg work for yourself. I will let you all simmer on that one.

We went in with open minds, and the reassurance that if we didn’t like what we saw, we could easily walk out. Though once we were through the door, we were immediately greeted by the owner. He was most helpful and most convincing in why we should stay for lunch. We ended up taking a seat upon his suggestion. After hearing our want to check things out before committing, he took the time to give us a walking tour of the buffet. The owner was very friendly, and to him everything was “amazing”. There were no names to any of the trays, no list of ingredients under each tub, no way to ensure dietary restrictions would be met. But he did point to each one and list their main ingredients for us verbally. Luckily neither of us had any dietary restrictions to consider and can actually enjoy the assembly a buffet provides.

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The buffet line was divided between cold and hot foods, appetizers and entrees. The former includes salads and spreads to start. A green salad, a Greek salad, dolmades, hummus, tzatziki, and a garlic butter to go with room temperature pitas.

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The latter buffet trays were all yellow, orange, or brown. Roasted potatoes stewing in butter and herbs, yellow rice seasoned heavily in spices, meatballs in a tomato paste, sausages in a tomato sauce, chicken legs done two ways, and roasted lamb.

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On their secondary line was a serving of fried chicken wings and mixed stewed vegetables. The rest of the trays were empty in anticipation of the larger dinner service line up. The vegetables were actually brought out after our first go at the line. I appreciated that despite it being late lunch, early afternoon, nothing looked too sold down. I mean they even put in the effort into preparing and offering up a new dish. And that it wasn’t just a top up.

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As our plates were varied and was composed of a little of everything, I will be simply listing notes of the dishes tried.

The garlic butter was good, but would have been better on something crispy, instead of the available room temperature pita bread. I wish there was a way to warm the pitas up, they were hard and chewy, almost stale. Actually I wish they made the pitas from scratch, you could tell this was store bought. Although I still found them one of the better items when paired with tzatziki and hummus. Though the hummus was a little on the bland side. It was easily perked up by stirring in a scoop of the garlic butter adjacent.

I am not a big fans of Dolmades, the peppery leaves are not to my liking. And even if I unwrap them from the little bundles, the soggy paste-like filling isn’t any better. It was too tart and too acidic for me. “Dolmades” are delicate parcels made from grape leaves stuffed with long-grain rice, toasted pine nuts, fresh herbs and seasonings.

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There were two different types of chicken, both dark meat and both only leg pieces. One was a spicy chilli, the other more like a mild bbq. You could tell them apart by the colour of the sauce and the presence of red flakes. I liked both for their juicy meat, that soaked up all the flavouring of the broth they sat in.

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The lamb was hit or miss. A few pieces were fall off the bone tender like the owner promised. Others got too much heat, and as a result dried out. Luckily with a buffet, you don’t have to finish what you don’t like and get to go back for what you do. I passed on the dry pieces and fished around for the ones that were more tender.

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The meat balls were actually more flattened meat patties. And like the sausage they were both just meat in tomato stew. They tasted as you expected them to: ground beef and spicy pork sausage.

Similarly, the Greek and garden vegetable salad was nothing special. Greek salad seasoned in olive oil and feta and garden salad dressed in a salty tangy vinaigrette

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Overall the food was nothing unique, it tasted good, but nothing very memorable. The flavours were similar to Greek cuisine. We tried a little of everything and went back for seconds, so I will deem the price for the food worth what we paid. However I am not a fan of most buffets in general. I don’t like the presentation or the selection. I don’t like the service model and miss the excitement of seeing a dish set before me. Though here, at $14.99 for the the price of one entree, you are better off paying that price for the buffet, and to be able to try more for less. Also this buffet was missing a dessert component, where most do consider something sweet to end the meal on. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TIBISTI GRILL
6990 VICTORIA DRIVE, VANCOUVER B
604-737-1000
Tibisti Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Donair Stop

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This is the most franchise-able donair place I have ever seen. Located on the prominent corner of Granville and Smithe, it was eye catching, well lit, and brightly painted. Their logo, a white trimmed red stop sign with “DS” in its centre, was enough to have me stopping in my tracks. Here this Eastern Mediterranean specialty is repackaged in an North American style, for our Canadian palette. Ethnic fast food food with flare. A catchy name and a simple logo, that even had the Rudolph drawing in the window smiling. There was nothing ethnic specific about the place. Other donair shoppes use traditional names and authentic props to play up their exotic nature. No hookas and no tribal-like music, just a simple shop serving wraps and donairs, with the ever popular North American side of fries. There is even the possibility of making each donair a combo for $2.95 more. This includes a canned drink with your choice of either lentil soup or a bag of chips.

For those who don’t know, the “donair” is a Turkish dish made with meat cooked vertically on a rotisserie-like grill. The meat is often carved by knife into thin layers, right on the spit. They are also widely known by their Arabic name “shawarma”, or as the Greek “gyros”.

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With the restaurant’s doors opened wide it looked inviting. The small line visible from across the intersection was enough of a reassurance that the place was good, but not long enough to deter those unwilling to wait. And if that and the delicious smells didn’t attract you in, the sandwich boards advertising free fries and the possibility of making your wrap or donair gluten free certainly had you taking a second look. The latter a relief for those with the specific dietary restrictions, as well as for those with growing health concerns.

The shop is small. Right by the door is a tiny seating area. A corner table by the window, and another two able to seat a larger group if pushed together. Given the practical cafeteria like seating: picnic tables with benches, this isn’t meant to be a sit and linger type of restaurant. You eat in and go or take out and go. I imagine their cuisine most popular amongst teens on a budget, and those out late after hard drinking and heavy dancing. This evening’s tables were filled with resting shoppers. Those who sat with their large bags and big purchases, seeking to save a little during dinner.

To the left, the wall is papered in red advertising their “authentic gourmet food”. Against it a cooler for canned soft drinks, a rice cooker, and shelves housing boxes and styrofoam for take out.

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Right at the entrance you are greeted by the counter, you approach it to order. The menu is a list three panels wide. It requires the arching of your neck and a look up to take it all in. Donairs, wraps, rice plates, or salads and sides. Each offering includes your choice of protein or vegetarian substitute, and their suggested variations. All the meats are advertised as being organic. The donair is titled as being “Halifax style”. Researching on the term, I discovered that the donair scene is pretty big in Halifax, with many fans making it their own. I would soon see this here, with their line up of possible ingredients to accompany the traditional meat and bread dish. Donair flavours are either beef, chicken; or “falafel”, their vegetarian option. Wraps were mostly made with chicken, with the possibility of substituting in beef for the “buffalo chicken” flavour. The chicken wraps came in Caesar, tropical, chipotle, Thai chilli (spelled “chilly”, a purposeful type-o?) and buffalo. Rice plates offered the same meats as above or falafel instead. “Falafel” is a deep fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. Your choice protein is served with rice, salad, pita, and your choice of sauce: tzatziki or hummus. Salad are available in Caesar, Greek, and Tabouli. “Tabouli” is a vegetarian salsa traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, and onion. Then seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. 

Either of the it two men working side by side take your order. They prepare wraps one after another, alternating between guests. Efficient as one builds the wrap, the other chargers their customer. Past them you can see the traditional donair set up. Slabs of meat rotating on a spit backed by stainless steel. Here either chicken or beef is kept warm as they spin round and round. Using a knife the meat is carved as needed right into a pocket of dough. After committing to a donair you look down behind the glass. Down at the multiple metal trays filled to the brim with colourful and fresh ingredients. Most are on the healthier side, like the variety of raw and pickled vegetables.

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I choose the beef donair over the chicken. I often find most fast food chicken is prepared too dry. And I also prefer dark meat, but more often get the commonly used and mostly preferred white breast meat. So I have learned not to gamble and stick with beef over chicken, beef that I know will be tasty. However I was given chicken by accident. A fact I didn’t clue into seeing the darker and heavily seasoned scraps of meat. A fact that was announced only when the donair was done and being extended to me. The server caught his mistake and was more than prepared to make me another. However I decided to accept it as is to not cause trouble and to not have to wait for another. Plus a lot of work goes into crafting one. To compensate for the mistake his coworker winked that he would give me extra fries instead. Completely unnecessary, but a nice touch none-the-less.

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The assembly begins with a pita being split into two width wise, to form a pocket. The seasoned and shredded near goes in first. Everything else that follows is up to you. Think “Subway” but with a wrap. I took everything but the hot colourful jalapeño peppers. A grilled chicken donair with hummus, shredded lettuce, carrots and beets; red onion, tabouli, tomato wedges, cucumber slices, pineapple triangles, pickles, and tzatziki sauce. For sauces you choice is between regular mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, an herbed vinaigrette, chipotle mayo, garlic mayo, and hot sauce. I went with my usual favourite: Chipotle mayo. Cheese is unnecessary and extra for $1. Another very North American influence, like the condiments before. Either a shredded mozzarella and cheddar blend or feta. Feta was recommended and that’s what I went with. Once assembled the bundle is wrapped and pressed to keep its shape and toasted to give it warmth. It reminds me of a calzone or pizza pocket, but less stable. 

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This was one of the largest hand helds I have had for under $9. Packaged like a box, I lifted the top to see a well arranged and well stacked slew of ingredients. Colourful, fresh, and full of exciting flavours. As with most similar bread wrapped fresh fixings, there is a need to eat quickly. Taking your time results in the bread getting soggy and everything falling out the bottom. Mine started with purple beet dyed juice drippings, that was pretty for what it was. Then less than mid way through my donair broke in the middle. Half the meat fell out, and I found myself eating the rest with a spoon. Luckily I didn’t attempt to eat and walk, but waited to take out and sit down. Things got messy as I got in there with hands creamy and mouth gaping. Not one bite was boring as you got a different seasoning, another sauce, a new vegetable’s texture at each go. What I found most surprisingly enjoyable was the sweetness of the pineapple. It was a nice twist, a surprise pop of juice and sugar. I would have liked the onions chopped finer though. At one point I bit into a slice the size of a baby’s fist. That wasn’t a great bite. Overall no complaints. Delicious and filling I couldn’t take it all in one sitting, nor would I have been able to salvage any of it as leftovers. I finished belly full and hands lingering with the smell of donair. I needed a breath mint to cleanse my palate of the pickles, onion, cilantro, and tzatziki fighting for supremacy. 

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Any purchase of a wrap or donair earns you a free side of thick cut fries. It was a familiar plus, and as I mentioned earlier I got more than usual. The fries are deep fried to order, and if eaten in, served along side the wrap in a plastic basket. If taken out bagged in brown paper. These were proper English style chips according to my British colleague. They were toasty on the outside with a crispness to the skin; and melty and soft in the middle, almost like mashed potatoes. Good and salty, as they should be. I preferred them without ketchup.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
What I had was good, it is not something I would want often, but instead one of those specific cravings that could only be quelled with the perfect donair. As a believer of more the better and most is best, I was trilled to have over fourteen different ingredients available to me in this one meal. With all these options you can have your way, or be like me and get more bang for your buck by having it all. And for regular diners all the possible combinations would give you endless flavour pairings. I would line up for this because I know the wait wouldn’t be long. Donairs are a fast food option healthy and heartier than any chain, at the same cost. Don’t deny your cravings.

DONAIR STOP
898 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6B2C9
604-910-5925
Donair Stop on Urbanspoon

Kefi Greek Kouzina

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We have been here once before, and on that first occasion, our visit was less than pleasant. On that day, nearly a year ago, the hostesses didn’t make us feel welcomed and the chefs and servers kept us waiting over an hour for our food. Time we spent waiting meant we were late for the movie we were planning to watch afterwards. However today we recalled the food as being pretty memorable, so were willing to gamble on a second visit. A gamble indeed as this drop in was without reservations, as a last minute Saturday night plan.

The restaurant is located in Schoolhouse Square, an outdoor shopping plaza with a large lot, adjacent to the Coquitlam Cinaplex. We drove to the far left corner for “Kefi”, with plenty of parking around. The restaurant stands out with its name in neon blue lights. The equally large sign to its left advertised $8 lunch specials. It had me wishing we had come seven hours earlier to take advantage of such a deal. Despite the lack of blue and white stripes and lush greenery, with its white painted columns against its rust stucco exterior the architecture certainly looked Greek to me.

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Coming in on a Saturday night we were pretty skeptical of being seated right away. Especially seeing as this wasn’t our first choice for that very reason. We asked the hostess if it was busy and she confirmed that it was, but sheepishly admitted to having room for us. The restaurant was dressed moderately festive with sparse garlands and dimly lit wreaths to reflect the holiday. But even with all the multitude of bulbs and twinkling glitter, the room maintained it dark and romantic ambience. This did well to illuminate their featured ceiling panels. Lean back and look up at back lit images of Grecian urns. Photos and pictures of historical works of art: pots with handles and vases shaped like trophies; and beige on black carvings showing everyday life in Greece through two dimensional sketches.

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Other than that there wasn’t much in terms of decor. The bar sat at the back with tall stools and flat screen televisions. The dining room before it, divided into two sections at varying heights. A platformed step up and a wooden bannister created the illusion of more room than there necessarily was in this little restaurant. Rust coloured walls, small framed posters, blue LED lights trimming the ceiling, and wooden floors that matched the wooden tables and chairs. Simple and homey. The type of restaurant ideal for a casual gathering, the type of place where no one would judge if you came dressed in sweat pants or a track suit (true story). Though the attractive female servers in their form fitting black dresses and glossy long hair certainly picked up fanciness of the place.

The menu was listed with titles in their traditional Greek names and their descriptions in English. Each plate was classified as either starters, salads, soups, comfortable food, grilled and fried, and accompaniments. As is the case when we have Greek, my partner choose the chicken souvlaki and I the roasted lamb. When I think Greek I think fall of the bone meat, savory rice, and soft roasted potatoes; and that’s just what we had.

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Our dinner began with two portions of Greek salad served as a shared one. Pre-chopped cubes of cucumber, tomato, green peppers, red onion, and a black olive each. It is prepared ahead of time, left to chill, and served as needed. The heirloom tomatoes could have been allowed to ripen more and I would have preferred the batch at room temperature instead of a teeth aching cold. But at least the salad was generously drizzled with olive oil and heavily dusted with herbs, and abundantly sprinkled with feta. Overall pretty standard, a side of fresh vegetables to balanced the savouriness of the carbohydrate loaded rice, pita, and potatoes to come.

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A mistaken word on our end had the server bringing me the lamb chops instead of the roasted rack of lamb. I was not disappointed. Had I gotten my usual I would have missed out on the “Rack of lamb paidakia”. New Zealand rack of lamb chops grilled with garlic, lemon, and oregano. Served with patates, spanakoritzo, and tzatziki. This was one of the nicest plates I have had presented at a Greek restaurant. Plating was certainly considered when stacking each chop, one after another. The lamb was grilled with a crusted rub that gave the meat a bit of a crunch. Eaten like lollipops the lamb was a little tough to tear into, but overall well prepared and packed full of salty flavour. A strong flavour that competed with the seasoned rice and roasted potatoes. So much flavour that I wished I saved some of the starting salad to eat between these bites.

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“Chicken souvlaki”. Skewered fresh chicken breast grilled with garlic, lemon, and oregano. Like the lamb this too was served with a side of patates, spanakoritzo, and tzatziki. Thick chunks of white chicken breast, grilled tender and served as one of the longest skewers of meat I have ever had. The charred flavour was as prominent as the seared grill marks on the chicken. Though as meaty as each bite was, it could have been more juicy and dialled down in its overwhelming lemon flavour. Luckily the lemon’s sour tang played well with the zesty rice and herbaceous whole potato. They did well to balance each other out.

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Each of our entrees came with a pita, served in a wire rack, slightly buttered and warmly toasted. A standard part of a Greek entree, best taken with the creamy and tangy tzatziki dip on the side. There was much effort put into creating flavours, even this pita was heavily seasoned. Something not necessarily good, as this was soon identified as our only palate cleanser of the meal.

The washrooms were ironically labelled for “gods” and “goddess”. Though it couldn’t be further from a space befitting a mystical deity. A continuous loud buzzing from harsh florescent lights. Stall doors so low that when standing you can see straight to your reflection on the mirror before you. And a reusable hand towel machine that requires a turn of a knob, and the allowing of sopping wet fabric to dry and be used by multiple sets of hands before being cleaned. The facilities were clearly outdated, there were lots that revealed the age of the place. A friend in the food industry once told me, a restaurant’s washroom often reflects its kitchen.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The setting was nothing memorable, a descent spot for a casual dinner. Not my first choice to celebrate an occasion at or spend a fancy dinner within. Though half the room seated for work functions, romantic dinners, and group birthday parties would disagree with me. Despite all the staff scheduled each one did little more than taking your order and bringing you your plates. As before we didn’t get friendly the welcoming service, often typical from family run Greek establishments. We were not made to feel as if our business was appreciated or even needed, just another table on a moderately busy Saturday night. Our food was good, as mentioned there was clear effort put into coaxing the most flavour out of everything. Though as a result all the spices and all the pungent garlic ended up fighting for supremacy in your mouth. There was not enough freshness to balance any of it out, no dedicated palate cleanser. Served as the appetizer, the salad was long gone, and the pita taken with tzatziki was no slouch in flavour as well. Each element was good on its own, but as a whole it doesn’t always compliment one another. Though at the end of the meal it is still better than any bland dish in need of self salting. Plated with design and purpose in mind, servings are not as large as at other Greek restaurants, but both run at similar prices for similar dishes. The menu spoke of how everything was made from scratch, even the broths and sauces and they make their own desserts. They even go as far as to butcher their own meat, ensuring nothing is prepackaged or processed. So I could see the higher cost on average as money being well spent. Even then the prices were still reasonable. Don’t deny your cravings.

KEFI
102-100 Schoolhouse Street, Coquitlam BC, V3K6V9
604-529-1776
kefi.ca
Kefi Greek Kouzina on Urbanspoon

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