Classic brochetterie still skewers the competition
In a city with a sizeable Greek community, a significant portion of which is involved in the food service industry (hey, some of my closest friends are Greek restaurateurs...) it isn’t particularly hard to find Greek, or at least Greek-inspired food.
So, why make the trek out to Jardin de Panos, where there’s always a line up, in a neighbourhood where there’s never anywhere to park? And it’s a brochetterie, a Greek-Quebecois concept that’s perhaps the least trendy type of eatery in Montreal, with a cliché menu and décor to match.
The restaurant’s many customers — yours truly included — don’t seem to mind the inconvenience or unoriginality. The food is great, you can bring your own booze, and as long as the warm weather lasts, it remains one of the best places to eat al fresco. Actually, a word on that: the “jardin” at Jardin de Panos has a few trees, but it isn’t a garden, and since it’s enclosed, it’s more of a courtyard than a terrace.
Whatever you want to call it, waits are longer if you want to dine without a roof over your head. My wife and I opted for a table in the covered, but airy space that opens onto the courtyard and were seated in about 15 minutes — more than enough time for me to browse the large selection of beer and some rather decent wine at the convenience store at the end of the block. I went with a bottle of beer for myself and sparkling cider for milady.
The menu is short and familiar to anyone who’s ever been to this sort of eatery — the only real question is, are you in the mood for grilled meat, poultry or seafood? Before picking a protein, I ordered a bowl of lentil soup, which is famous around these parts (as famous as a lentil soup can get, anyway). It may be an odd choice in the middle of a late summer heat wave, but it’s one of the best soups I’ve ever had at a restaurant, despite consisting of just some lentils in a lemony broth.
For the main course, we decided on a surf and turf split: the souvlaki plate for my wife, and just be different, I had the fried calamari dish. Both came with the requisite rice and potato wedges, but instead of the usual Greek salad, there was a home-style horiatiki, or peasant salad: a crunchy mix of lettuce, rounds of celery and carrot, shredded turnip, red and white cabbage in a simple lemon and olive oil dressing, livened up with plenty of fresh dill.
The souvlaki was a kebab of oh-so-tender pork in a zesty marinade, interspersed with pieces of onion and green pepper. In a rare act of kindness, the skewer is already removed, so you don’t have to wrestle with it in your plate and risk putting someone’s eye out or getting a hunk of meat down the front of someone’s blouse.
The calamari were beyond tender, and while I can’t vouch that they weren’t originally frozen, they were likely flash frozen whole, thawed and cut into bite-sized pieces a few hours earlier morning. A far cry from the frozen and pre-cut rubber rings and tentacles you get at most restaurants.
Yet more classics for dessert: baklava, chock full of nuts and honey, and galaktoboureko, which consists of a thick layer of custard between two layers of syrup-soaked phylo. Both were OK, but considering that they’re both under $3, you can’t really go wrong.
Giancarlo La Giorgia is a freelance writer and citeeze.com’s resident foodie.