Vassilis Souvlaki Greek Taverna
Vassilis Souvlaki is somewhat of a landmark in Burnaby. It’s that Greek restaurant on Kingsway with the palm trees. That’s all you have to say. Everyone immediately knows which place you’re talking about. For me, it’s the Greek restaurant next to Phở Saigon…a long-time favorite Burnaby phở joint. Recently a colleague and original Friday Luncher retired. For his send-off luncheon he felt like some Greek food.
Vassilis has won the local newspaper reader poll for Greek food in Burnaby ten years in a row. For me, this is an ominous sign. Those polls aren’t usually the most trustworthy…nothing more than a free newspaper-reader’s popularity contest. Not exactly go-to guides of fine, local cuisine. That being said, it’ll be interesting to see what the hype is all about.
When you enter Vassilis Souvlaki it’s like visiting someone’s home. It’s a bit overwhelming at first. The sheer amount of greenery, artwork and knick knacks can cause a bit of sensory overload. Soon enough though, you’re settled in and the surroundings become very comfortable.
As you can probably guess, when Souvlaki is in the restaurant’s title, that’s what the majority of folks will order. Out of fourteen diners, seven went with chicken and three with lamb.
I was quite surprised with the size of the Chicken Souvlaki skewer. Not quite X-Site or Stepho’s size but ample, nonetheless.
The Lamb Souvlaki, a tad smaller, was grilled to medium-rare perfection.
I never got a chance to reach over and steal a piece of Kalamari. From all appearances, it looked damn tasty.
This is Vassilis’ one and only pasta dish. Linguini with Mediterranean Sauce. Tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs, scallions, shrimp and mizithra cheese.
My selection of the day was Keftethes (Charbroiled meatballs). As with the Souvlakis and Kalamari, the Keftethes are served with Greek salad, roast potatoes, rice pilaf and tzatziki. Although flavourful, these were a bit overdone…the potatoes as well. The rice pilaf was tasty but could’ve been better served as a bed for the meatballs. What saved the meal was the excellent tzatziki. Thick, Greek yogurt, chock full of garlic and lemon. When mine ran out I raided my neighbour’s. Thanks, Rudy!
After we placed our order, the dishes came out at a surprisingly rapid rate. That was due to good prep in the kitchen but mainly due to a very capable and experienced server.
Overall, the food at Vassilis is standard Canadian-Greek fare…nothing really outstanding. Plating really needs to be addressed. This is a result of a production-line kitchen and lack of an expediter. Average food always tastes better when presented well.