Ever since The Family Restaurant aired on Food Network Canada, my Mum and I have been itching to visit Koutouki – not for the food necessarily, but in order to see the venue of a television production in person. As I had heard dinners at Koutouki was quite pricey, we decided to swing by for lunch instead.
Our schedules finally aligned, and with a day off on Friday, I made a reservations for my parents and I at the southside Taverna (10310 45 Avenue). Stepping into the low-ceilinged building, I found the space cramped, but in a comfortable, “get to know your neighbour” kind of way, similar to TZiN. I loved the overhanging ivy-like plants, with twinkle lights looped in-between pots – they would, as my Mum commented, be a nightmare to water, but really elicited feelings of romanticism and escapist possibilities. Even more than Blue Willow, pictures of the family behind Koutouki lined every wall (including patriarch Yianni Psalios with Kevin Lowe, and even Muhammad Ali!) and served their function of making diners feel like a part of the establishment’s growing history.
While I can’t claim to be a huge fan of Greek cuisine, I probably haven’t sampled enough of it to really make a fair judgment. It turns out Koutouki doesn’t offer a separate lunch and dinner menu, so my delay was for naught. The waitress spoke of two specials, one of which sounded good to me – a pork donair-esque dish ($15.95) that I can’t remember by name. My parents opted for the second special, a rack of lamb, also priced at $15.95.
While waiting for our entrees, we were offered bread and Greek salad (feta, tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, olives) lightly tossed in olive oil. It was a light, refreshing way to start out our meal, and I didn’t even mind the feta in the dish.
We did get to see Yianni and his wife Kally – Yianni stepped out to survey the dining room at one point, and Kally was busy refilling coffee and water throughout our time there. Everything seemed so normal and commonplace that it was strange to think a full television crew was once stationed here.
Our entrees arrived and I immediately knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the large portion, especially given that this was my first meal of the day. The cubes of pork within my donair tasted tough and overcooked, but I was willing to overlook that if not for the overpowering lemon used in both the sauce and the potato side dish. The citrus was so pervasive that everything actually tasted sour. And though I’m not averse to parsley, overuse of the fresh herb was too much for me in this case. My parents thought the lamb was all right, though they would have happily accepted steak knives instead of the butter knives provided at the tables.
While we were treated to attentive service during our time at Koutouki, I can’t say I’ll be back. The food really played second-string to “celebrity-sighting” this afternoon.
The Psalios family
Yianni with Muhammad Ali
Certificate from Premier Ralph Klein, congratulating Yianni and Kally on their grand Cyprus wedding for daughter Dina
Rack of lamb