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Monday, June 6, 2011

Melbourne :: Hellenic Republic

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After a tasty pre-dinner dinner, I hopped on a bus with my wonderful hosts to Hellenic Republic. Not only did I get to fulfill my quirky love for trying foreign public transit, but I had a chance to enjoy dinner with a couple who were quite possibly the most interesting and free-spirited people that I met in Australia.

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Verdict: Well executed, tasty, but not ahh-mazing
Meal: Dinner
Price: $58pp
Location: 434 Lygon St Brunswick East VIC 3057, Australia

D had been eyeing this place for quite some time, and Toronto’s Greek is mostly mid-ranged offerings on the Danforth so I was interested in discovering what one might consider higher end.
Our food ADD was satisfied by the Trapezi menu – more or less a full offering of Hellenic – which featured Mezethakia (Small Tastes), Psari Sti Skara (Grilled Fish), Kreas Tis Imeras (Meat of the Day), Loukoumathes (Greek Donuts, Attiki Honey). It was a great way to sample a lot of the restaurant’s offerings.

Mezethakia (Small Tastes)
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Many many small tastes indeed! Well executed and tasty – though not OMG.We were served a salad of pomegranate, lentils, saffron yoghurt, lentils, parsley, and freekah. It was very fresh and a great combination. I liked it better than the fennel and octopus salad, which was still good – the pickled octopus was not overcooked. Along with pita bread, there was a really interesting and addictive dip made from cod roe dip. I’ve never had a fishy-dip before, it was subtle yet tasty with the pita bread – I really enjoyed it. I appreciated that the small tastes were lighter in nature. We were also served fried croquettes:

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Following this spread, we were served my beloved flammmming cheese, Tyri Saganaki, Keflagraviera with peppered figs.


Which was actually a sore disappointment – it was not lit in front of us with the traditional (or maybe bastardized?) cry of “Opa!”, and the cheese was on the gummy side instead of the mouth-watering melty-ness that makes this dish pretty much the only time that I will happily eat cheese on its own. Sad. I will say that the caramelized balsamic figs was a nice touch, and if the cheese was freshly lit and melty, it would’ve been a great dish.
This was followed by grilled swordfish steaks:
HellenicRepublic-16In my experience, swordfish has been a great “meaty” fish. Nice and thick, when nicely grilled I really love the flavour and texture. Well-cooked servings of swordfish will always bring back memories of the hot summer night in Barbados’ Oisten Market. Yum…fresh market food in the West Indies!

Anyways…back to Melbourne! The fish was well-cooked, and like everything else, the plating was simple yet attractive
We were given a rather large bottle of sauce – creamy with a lemon zip, it went well with the fish, and we were also served scallops, topped with garlic breadcrumbs.

Now it was time for the Meat of the Day! Yay meat!
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It was interesting – we were served a mixture of lamb and chicken along with really good tzatsiki and potatoes. I really enjoyed the potatoes the most here, not the meat – hot, fresh, with oregano…oh yes. The meat was good, and maybe it was simply a product of eating too much meat by this point in Australia (yes, there is such thing!), but I wasn’t loving it as much as my companions. Most of it was packed up, to be enjoyed by C & D later on :-)

HellenicRepublic-24They were really great with the creamy tzaktsiki. The lamb and chicken were good – but I found the lamb a bit too fatty for my personal liking. I’m picky with lamb though. Overall, it was flame-grilled and well done -  we were bustin’ by the end but not ready to throw in the towel until we were at least served something sweet to end the meal!

We were finished with loukoumathes:
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Mmmm…Greek-style donuts bathed in honey and walnuts. My vote is still for the Taste of the Danforth's Greek Community Tent though!

The restaurant was lively, and photo-taking was fun with C but if I was a Melbourne resident, I don’t think I’d return. While tasty, it did not feel innovative or of the calibre that the presence/price seems to call for – I’ll stick with my gyros and souvlaki in Toronto without any wistful thoughts of Hellenic, but I would readily recommend it for someone that wants something that is well-cooked but appropriate for those who are shy about adventurous food :-)

The dishes aren’t something that you’ll find everyday and I think the variety and execution is simple enough to satisfy most people. For the price, it felt about right - we certainly went home with full bellies and leftovers. Oh Melbourne. You fed me well. Hellenic Republic on Urbanspoon


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