521 Duluth E.
Metro: Sherbrooke, Mont-Royal
Bus: STM 11, 14, 24, 29, 30, 97, 144, 427
Visit: December 15, 2011
My visit to Le Jardin de Panos is the third in the series of outings as part of the Fat Squirrel Society (inside joke). The first visit was in October for Korean BBQ and the second was in the midst of Chinatown. So, we took a little bit of a curve by going to see what other Greek restaurants there were to explore in Montreal. I honestly thought that I reached the plateau of Greek cuisine with my other visits, so I was hoping to expand to that list.
To set the scene a bit, you should know that the late afternoon was already pitch black and it was raining cats and dogs. So, getting to walk two long blocks in the pouring rain was probably the lowest point of the evening. The good news is that it could only go up from there.
The fact that it was dark out doesn’t do the building justice. If you visit the restaurant’s website, you’ll see what it looks like when it’s bright out. It’s only fitting that a building is blue and white for its cuisine. Also, the cobblestone road that is Duluth only adds to the mystique of the street.
We entered the restaurant and were greeted by the hostess. We were then led through a maze of aisles and halls to the back dining room. From my vantage point, there seems to be different dining rooms in different parts of the restaurant separated by the kitchen. It’s probably the strangest entry to a restaurant I’ve ever seen. Personally, I’d rather it be direct and clear.
Even though the service was lagging at times, I still found it quite cordial. The server was extremely patient and answered our questions with ease. Sometimes, when you see a server just standing around, you have to really think about the whole situation and not that particular second. For one, I don’t want a server hovering over me throughout an entire meal. Also, they work rather hard, especially when they have to deal with difficult customers. They deserve a few moments.
The restaurant itself is decorated like a home style dining room. There are paintings on most of the walls. The tables are nicely distributed, though we questioned the purpose of the long row of tables stuck together. I tend to prefer around table where everyone can interact with everyone without having to go over someone’s head.
This is a collection of Greek appetizers for two people (or three) that includes tzatziki, taramosalata, artichokes, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, and other various selections.
This was probably the most difficult decisions when it came to ordering on this night. At first, we didn’t know what appetizers to pick, if any. Then, the pikalia platter was thrown out there as the probable best bet. Intended for 2 people, we wondered if that would be sufficient for everyone.
Outside my liking of most feta cheeses, the big hit for me on this platter were the vine leaves wrappings. Though a little cold, the taste of the vine leaves and rice hit the spot. The spanakopita or spinach pie was also something that probably wasn’t the best on the platter, but was good as is.
The one thing that surprised me a whole deal was the artichoke pieces. As the platter was sitting there, I was intending on not touching it at all. It was only after we cleared most of the platter that the thought of trying the artichokes came to mind. Being that I was a little more adventurous than usual, it was go time. When you put your fork into the artichoke, you’ll notice that it starts wilting away. When that happened, I scooped the pieces into the fork and ate them. The taste didn’t really resonate with me at all, which is why I can’t describe it so much.
For a beginning, this platter of various appetizers was a good way of starting the evening. It made it a point to keep a tally of how things were going to ensure that the person who picked the restaurant would be tested fairly.
Now, this was the other appetizer ordered and the one I didn’t try. If you’ve read some of my previous Greek restaurant posts on the GBS, you’ll know that I have a specific rule when it comes to eating. If I don’t like the way it looks, it ain’t going in my belly. I hope some of you were thinking of the Austin Powers character I can’t name because I want this blog to remain PG. So, with all that being said, I’ll let you enjoy the picture.
It was at this point in the dinner, while waiting for main courses to come to our table, where I decided to see how the bread was. Usually, diners at a Greek restaurant spread tzatziki or taramosalata on the pieces of bread to get the most effect. I, however, am not that smart or evolved. I went literally for my bread and butter. I found the bread to be fine in the center, but a little harder to chew at the outer rims.
Shrimp Brochette Platter
This is a shrimp brochette platter containing salad, potatoes, rice, and very large pieces of shrimp.
Now, in my experiences thus far in Greek restaurants for the GBS, I’ve been used to sharing items. So, the fact that we were going to go for our own poisons threw me off a bit. However, our host was tempting me with shrimp in the lead up to this visit. So, it was only natural that I chose to try the shrimp brochette platter in this very night.
I know I often sing the praises of bacon (mandatory bacon reference, check!) on this site, but there is something else that ranks right up there with me. I’ve grown up with more shrimp in my mouth than bacon. Shrimp is an Asian staple that I simply cannot live without, no matter how ugly they look. It’s funny, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking back of the episode of Hell’s Kitchen I was watching on DVD last night, where they were de-shelling shrimp and serving cocktails. So, you must know that shrimp is the secret entry way into my heart, instead of the front gate of bacon.
The overall dish had a lot of big time components to them. I’m going to start in reverse order and work my way up to the main event. The rice was quite acceptable. It’s a little heavier than what I’m used to, but for Greek rice, it was good.
The salad was a little underwhelming in my opinion. There were simply too many various greens and vegetables that I simply didn’t care for. I don’t get the obsession with putting carrots in all salads. I like a good cooked carrot, but not one that’s not. I was guessing that I set myself up for disappointment when I was hoping in the back of my mind for something like a Greek salad replacement with the ever so awesome feta cheese we had just moments prior.
The potatoes, from what I noticed, were bigger in size. I didn’t touch the potatoes immediately because I was more focused on something else on my plate. It was before I was ready to tackle the starchy foe that I was told that he potatoes were way too hot. Me, being the stubborn fool that I am, put one whole potato in my mouth. As I sat there, pretending that nothing was bothering me, my tongue was playing a game of hot potatoes.
The big obvious superstar of the platter was the shrimp brochette. Now, I had a moment of disappointment when I realized that there was no stick to be had. That’s the dying child spirit trying to break out of the eternal prison I placed him in. I felt a little dumb after I was told it was taken out after cooking. However, the real initial glance was at the rather enormous size of the shrimp. Now, we’ll have our smart readers tell me that this isn’t unusual because shrimp do come this big. Well, I’m sorry that I haven’t been around shrimp-wise. I was so overtaken by the size of the shrimp that I took the picture you see above of this majestic piece of shrimp. As a matter of fact, I think it’s one of the best pictures I took in 2011 and maybe in my entire life.
Now that I went over all the merits of my first shrimpy impressions, I have to tell you what I thought after I put them in my mouth. I was truly disappointment. I was disappointed that there weren’t any more shrimp to be had. There were some of the best shrimp I’ve had in recent times. You could tell that they were cooked nicely. They blow anything I’ve ever had at Tiki Ming out of the water.
As part of the nice evening dinner, we respectfully shared bits and pieces of our platters to our compatriots. I allowed a piece of shrimp to defect from my plate in exchange for a lamb shop from this plate and a piece of chicken from the next platter. This way, I could tell you, in better details, how everything really was.
This piece of lamb was requested medium rare and that’s the way it was delivered to the table. Though the taste was fine, the difficult part was trying to get the most out of the chop. Since they leave the bone in, it gets rather difficult to excavate the meat from the bone. So, I don’t know how thorough of a job I did when I “finished” this piece.
To round off the exchanges, I got to try a piece of chicken from our host’s platter. The chicken was well cooked and rivalled anything I had in my past visits at other Greek restaurants. Seeing and tasting the quality of the chicken made me wonder if I made the completely correct ordering choice here. Though, I don’t think I could settle with only three pieces of shrimp.
Chocolate Mousse Cake
Though I was basically begged to take a Greek dessert on this evening, there was only one dessert I had my eye on when I was looking at the menu. Personally, I didn’t take a Greek dessert for two reasons. The first reason was that loukoumades were nowhere to be found on the menu. The second reason was that the dessert that was suggested to me was baklava. I first got to try baklava due to the place I was working at. I can honestly tell you, after multiple tries, that I don’t like baklava, sorry.
My sites were set on having this chocolate mousse cake. Now, before I chose this dessert, it was pointed out to me that I turned down this kind of cake before in the past. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the specifics of that. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t of been so hasty to turn down such epic goodness.
Lately, I’ve been trying to limit my chocolate intake. But, as we all know, that effort will always turn out to be fruitless because of the lure that chocolate has. Each bite of this cake was magnificent. I didn’t have to fight the cake whatsoever. I’m feeling a little guilty now that I think of it, seeing how I didn’t let anyone have a taste of the cake. But, if you took a bite of this, you’d want to defend this cake with every inch of your life. Remember, I also subscribe to the Joey Tribianni philosophy on food, don’t touch if you want to keep your hand.
This was only other dessert ordered. I was offered a try, but I was feeling a little stuffed at this point, so I decided not to indulge. However, from what I heard, it was worth the try.
This time last year, I’ve only had one Greek restaurant experience under my belt. I never expected to have other opportunities to go to Greek places. Le Jardin de Panos, on this evening, did everything right. From opening pitch to closing out, everything I tried was a home run. Even on the next day, when I questioned some people who were familiar with the place, they shared some of the same opinions. This is a must visit place in Montreal to try Greek food.