4024B Sainte-Catherine O.
Bus: STM 15, 24, 57, 63, 90, 104, 108, 138, 144, 150
Visit: June 28, 2012
During the 2011-2012 season of the GBS, Greek food has found a way into my plans when it comes to eating. While there are so many big time names in that realm of cuisine on the island of Montreal, we rarely get to add newcomers to that list. On a late June afternoon, I was about to be taken to a place called Sparta to see how a relative unknown in Greek cuisine would fare.
By now, I’ve mentioned my colleague Steakman a half million times. It’s through his Greek heritage that I’ve been able to take an adequate survey of what Montreal has to offer when it comes to Greek food. It was two weeks ago when he mentioned a place called Sparta to me. You see, every Friday, he goes out with a group of people, visiting various restaurants in the greater Montreal area. One of their recent discoveries was Sparta. The high point of his praise went to the Greek potatoes and how I just had to try them.
As I always am intrigued when the gauntlet is laid down, I was more than eager to see what his fuss was all about. So, at this point, I had to do my research to what I was going to be stepping into. The first time I looked up the restaurant on Google Maps, I couldn’t remember the name, so I was going on the location I was given. If you do the same search, you will not find the place, since it is relatively new. For those wondering, Sparta replaced a 2 for 1 pizza place.
So, it was a sunny Thursday afternoon and we were going to make our way to Sparta. At this point, this is where Steakman threw a bit of a curve in the road. We were going to be joined by a third individual. This person was a part of the Friday culinary escapade groups and an elementary school teacher. It also didn’t hurt her credibility that she was also Greek. With the group assembled and hunger creeping up, we were ready to find Sparta.
When you approach Sparta, the entranceway is not that apparent. I was even standing across the street, not really being able to zone in so quickly. After being helped out in that department, I was stunned to find out that it was right next to a Burger Search alumni Tutti Frutti. So, after waiting an eternity to cross the street at that crosswalk, we entered the restaurant. At that particular time, there were still a few people inside. On the right hand side of the room are a litany of the smallest booths I’ve ever seen. It seems like a cramped room, but there’s enough space.
A restaurant experience is so much more than the food. Steakman has only been here a few times and told me he made friends with the staff. I was confused by that and didn’t really believe him until I saw the owners walk out to see us. It was immediate recognition of the familiar faces sitting at the table. On their past visits, one of the sticking points was the disappointment in the tzatziki. The owners reassured us that there were changes made this time.
Another thing you get in unique restaurant experiences is getting to sometimes interact with people. On this day, there was this man, who seemed to be fixated on the Italy-Germany Euro Cup football game on the television. It was only a matter of time before we would cross paths. It also didn’t hurt that he sent a compliment towards one member of our party. For those wondering, it wasn’t towards the male members. It turns out he was a visiting American from Florida. He only moved to that area of the States in the last few years after growing up in New Jersey. That’s the plausible part of what we learned, what comes next is the stuff I can’t confirm, nor deny. He also claims to go to Los Angeles where he visits regularly with Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy. You can take that for what it’s worth.
Before we get to the food, there is another important point I must cover. Before you enter the restaurant, you’ll notice that Sparta is Halal friendly. That’s a huge thing in the every growing multicultural metropolis. They were not claiming that for the fun of it either, as there were people who came in to take them up on it. With a location right across the street from major commercial, education, and business centers, there’s only potential.
Toasted Bread 1
Toasted Bread 2
This is a Greek salad with a generous helping of tomatoes and feta cheese. The salad was on par with the ones I’ve had in the past year. The only thing I would say is that there are always the few components, like the olives, that I know I won’t eat. Regardless of that, it’s still worth it to have the rest of the salad, especially when there was a nice surprise added.
Once I was able to dig down through the salad, I stumbled across this piece of toasted bread sitting in olive oil. The fact it was sitting there, soaking in all the essence of the ingredients, made it a much better version of any crouton you can ever have. What was also nice to see is that Steakman was able to use the remaining olive oil for his much needed bread.
Filet Mignon Souvlaki Plate
Mixed Souvlaki Plate
This is a mixed souvlaki plate which includes tzatziki, rice, Greek-style potatoes, a stick of chicken, and another stick of filet mignon. With the many components of this plate coming together, what you have here is a pretty good portion size.
I’m going to start with the potatoes since they were the main reason for the trek down the Decarie expressway. What struck me was their immense size. It seems like entire potatoes were taken, cooked, and served. Even if this was the selling point for the visit, I was hesitating taking a first bite because I had a bad feeling. This is where I took my fork and attempted to cut through. Normally, I would be able to do that, but I wasn’t having much luck. This is where I had to pick up the knife and physically put more energy into the cutting of smaller potato pieces. While the taste is nothing out of the ordinary for Greek potatoes, they were just too hard, which will affect judgement. We were disappointed, as in my table’s previous visits, they were so much softer.
The rice was probably the better side dish on this day. At first, I didn’t quite like what I was tasting, but I don’t know what happened in the next few moments. The rice actually grew on me. I was kind of indifferent to the pepper and garnishing served with the rice, but the main element of that side dish disappeared fast.
The souvlaki sticks of meat are items that I would not normally go for in a sit-down restaurant. As the restaurant’s menu is a little limited, these were the best ways to sample the most possible. I was going to do only the filet mignon, but I just had to have chicken in there as well.
I’m not normally a big chicken fan, but this was comparable to anything I’ve had at another Greek restaurant. The way the chicken was grilled was distinct and you could taste that in every bite. My chicken souvlaki was the first one to disappear. The filet mignon souvlaki was requested medium and I was happy to see it come to the table that way. Each bite wasn’t a fight or a battle, which made me happy. Though I preferred the chicken on this day, the filet mignon half was strong in itself.
What Sparta represents at the edge of the downtown/Westmount divide is another option for people working, studying, or shopping in the area. While the menu isn’t as vast as one would like, it’s enough to show you what the restaurant is strong at doing. Their short lifespan is one where they are still willing to receive feedback, as in the case of the tzatziki changes. If 2 full-bred Greek individuals return to this place repeatedly, you have to take that as a good sign. For me, while not everything was perfect, it was strong enough for me to want to come back.