For some reason or another, a good number of restaurants in the Metro Vancouver area have decided to combine Greek and Italian cuisine. This has has been going on for as long as I can remember. It’s not uncommon to find spanakopita and dolmades on the same menu as lasagna and pizza. That’s not the case with Saloniki Greek Taverna in the heart of Commercial Drive, because it is indeed a Greek taverna through and through.
Saloniki occupies the same location where Bouzyos once stood and, aside from the name change, it doesn’t seem like they’ve done too much in terms of changing the decor or switching up the approach to classic Greek cuisine. Seeing how Bouzyos was one of my favorite restaurants for some time, I hoped that Saloniki would hold up to the same standard. Our experience ended up being a little bit of a mixed bag.
We started our meal with a couple of appetizers. The fried kalamari ($9) was quite unremarkable. The portion size was decent–definitely bigger than what we got at Cozmos Restaurant–and the squid was reasonably tender. Sadly, the batter wasn’t as crispy as it could have been. The tzatziki sauce was too thick as well.
The keftethes ($7) also left something to be desired. While there was a good amount of fat content in there, the beef meatballs were too loose and too crumbly. They were just okay. As an aside, being offered some pita bread to start is not unusual. Having it accompanied by olive oil and balsamic vinegar rather than more tzatziki was a little strange.
The cook on the lamb was mostly to my liking. However, I felt the whole dish was over-seasoned. Some people may describe this as offering bold flavors; I’d say it was just too salty. It’s not overwhelming, but it is noticeable.
A couple of my dining companions went with the roast lamb special ($15). The slow roasted lamb shoulder was served with the same sides as the lamb souvlaki and the plate was similarly “festive” in its decorations. And the verdict on the roast lamb is also in line with the lamb souvlaki. The portion size is great and there’s tons of the flavor. There’s just too much seasoning.
The Greek community has a very strong foothold in the Commercial Drive area and it would take a lot for a Greek restaurant to stand out here. Unfortunately, Saloniki isn’t quite up to the challenge just yet. While the menu offers a good value and portions are generous, the dishes are overseasoned and the wait staff could be more attentive. As it stands, Saloniki is simply average. And that’s ultimately forgettable.