We were visiting Oliver for the weekend, but our accommodations were in Penticton, so on the way “home” for the evening we decided to visit a much talked about Greek restaurant for a dinner for 3. Myself, plus Diana of @foodologyca and Mark of @fooddaddyca.
I love a good cohesive theme, and this restaurant well represented itself. The traditional Greek white and blues at the threshold with grape vines reaching out to greet you. The courtyard just to the right was my favourite setting; with running water feature, stone statues, and plenty of live foliage. Although as the most romantic of all the spots were situated here, the tables were all naturally reserved. Pass it is a narrow hallway entrance, rustic with piles of chopped wood, a collection of found antiques, and dried chilli peppers hung in bundles on either sides of the wooden rafters. This was all build up for the bustling restaurant space we would walk into.
With several pockets and two floors, without a reservation they were able to seat us relatively quick. The menu reads just as packed as their space. A lot to look at and plenty to consider, especially when the belly dancer comes through. With long and dark straight hair that went down past the small of her back, a glittery silver brazier, and matching belt with dangling tassels that sat over a skirt of pastel fabrics, she was a vision. She did well to rile up the crowd, engaging in banter. She got me out of my chair to shake and shimmy alongside her, teaching me a thing or two about hip movement and the art of belly dancing. She had multiple sets throughout the night, just enough presence to surprise and delight, but not so long as to distract from a hot meal and jovial conversation with your table mates. Live entertainment, when relevant, is always a great way to mark busier nights.
But alas, back to the menu: Considering they advertised their calamari on their sandwich board outside, we had to start with that, alongside a cheese dish Mark highly favours. And as for entree, we decided to share one of their dinner platters to be able to taste smaller portions of a lot of their menu items. They are as follows.
The Sauteed Kalamari was pretty average. Baby squid, fresh garlic, diced onion, green pepper, red chili flakes and fresh tomatoes sautéed in a light Okanagan white wine tomato sauce. I honestly expected better considering their slogan is to “eat squid”, and once again it was advertised as the one to get on their sandwich board outside. I wanted the pieces of squid larger and their texture firmer, more of a contrast from the crispy breading. Similarly, the tzatziki it came with fell short for me. First there was not enough of it, considering how much is needed to inject some flavour into the dish, second it was more herb than cream, and third you want it thick and creamy like a dip that you can use a ring of squid to scoop it up with. We did end up asking for more tzatziki, which the staff obliged at no additional charge.
The Saganaki Flamed was the one Mark had to have. Having it before elsewhere and then never again, he was now ready to relive that mouth memory. Greek Kefalograviera cheese made from Greek sheep that is lightly floured, baked and finished with lemon and brandy. It arrives at the table set aflame, but that is short lived. It is basically as advertised on the menu above. Salty cheese, best eaten hot and melty before its strings you pull up, solidifies. You do get passing kicks of alcohol and a misting of lemon citrus here and there. But as for the cheese itself, it was a little aged and sharp, reminding me of parmesan; whereas, according to Mark it should be more like mozzarella.
The Theo’s Platter for Two is described as an ideal way to experience all that Theo’s has to offer. Including Greek salad for two, Beef Souvlaki, Dolmathes, Moussaka, Spanakotiropita, and Paithakia Skaras. Served together, but broken down as it’s own individual dish for this post.
Not your traditional Greek Salad, Theo’s version is called Horiatiki and is the Cretan village version of a Greek salad with green peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, crumbled feta cheese, and oregano. Dressed with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. It tasted the same as Greek salad to me, it just could have used some additional salt or maybe more feta and some olives for the same effect.
Their Souvlaki is available in beef, chicken or lamb. The Beef came standard in our platter. 7.5oz bite size pieces of beef marinated in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano; then skewered with onion and green peppers and grilled order. I liked the soft and meaty tender chew of the beef, but felt like it needed more seasoning to stand out against the rice and grilled potatoes that accompanied it. Although the third severing of tzatziki we got here helped to inject the salt and herbs I was missing.
Dolmathes Avgolemono is hot stuffed grape leaves filled with rice, ground beef, and fresh herbs. Then topped with a creamy avgolemono sauce. As per Wikipedia “Avgolemono” is a sauce made with egg yolk and lemon juice mixed with broth, heated until thickened. Out of pure textural preference, I am not a fan of this one for its wilted leaf wrap. The meaty filling plays off the flavour of the leaf with a similar herbaceous-ness.
The Moussaka here is one of Theo’s signature menu items since 1976, and they refer to it as the “ultimate in Greek comfort food”. It is like a cross between a Shepherd’s pie and lasagna, but with Greek inspired seasonings. Described as alternate layers of sliced roasted eggplant, potatoes, zucchini, and ground beef spiced with cinnamon and herbs. They proudly advertised that the topping itself was created by owner/chef Mary Theodosakis, featuring her enhanced Béchamel sauce with nutmeg and other spices common to her home on the island of Crete. It delivered on its promise of comfort eating with its assembly of softened familiar flavours, and fragrant eggplant as a new player. Although, like almost everything else, I found that this too lacked salt in my books.
Their Spanakotiropita I liked. The popular Greek spinach pie made with paper-thin layers of phyllo pastry. Filled with a blend of spinach, sautéed onions, fresh dill and feta cheese. This was simply delicious. You could hear and feel the crisp of the pastry shell, made even more brilliant in contrast to the smooth cheese and spinach spread.
Paithakia is New Zealand Free Range Lamb Chops, grilled and lightly dressed with olive oil, oregano, and lemon. Here we had the same issue with the beef above. Perfectly grilled tender with a nice chew off the bone, but we all could have used more herbs and spices in the marinade or a longer one. Mark found that since it was seasoned the same as the beef above, with the same burnt char, he could not tell this was lamb.
Truth be told, when it comes to meals like this in a smaller town, I take it with a grain of salt. I understand that we are spoiled in Vancouver and as such my palate has evolved to be more discerning, comparatively. So amazing when your options are far and few in between, especially with the addition of live music, and when keeping the elaborate decor in mind. But we did walk away underwhelmed, although still full and well fed in retrospect.
687 Main St, Penticton, BC V2A 5C9