Monday, June 8, 2015

Grilled Haloumi - Greek food Ottawa

The Ottawa Zomato meetup took place in Little Italy at EVOO Greek Kitchen, organized by community manager Samantha. This is not my first meetup that I have attended. The first one was in Montreal, hosted by Genevieve, at my favourite Latin American restaurant - Ceviches. That was the time of the official launch of Zomato Montreal. I got to meet several food bloggers that I haven't had a chance to meet in person.

The invited bloggers in this meetup are mostly fashion, lifestyle, parenting and nutrition bloggers. Throughout the evening, I had a wonderful chat with DM Kontrast, Bjütie, A Peek inside the Fish Bowl as well as Canada East Lead Manager, Kevin. There are very few active restaurant bloggers in Ottawa. Most local foodies write their reviews on Ottawa Foodies. I only have a few restaurants left to try out in Ottawa. EVOO Greek Kitchen was on my list. 

Do you know what EVOO is short for? It's one of the core ingredients in Greek cuisine or more generally, Meditteranean cuisine. I was the first one to arrive and I had a quick chat with restaurant owner Elias and chef Lefteris. I have a narrow understanding of Greek food. All I know is that this cuisine similar to countries surrounding the Meditteranean sea. And that I have cooked plenty times the Greek chicken soup - avgolemono. The recipe is on my blog - Random Cuisine. After talking with both of them, I felt their passion of showcasing authentic Greek food to the Ottawa community. I came out of this restaurant with a belly full of knowledge. 

Greek cuisine is best described as a simple humble meal that is shared with family and friends. The food is typically grilled or roasted over charcoal. Our menu is concocted in such a way that we can explore the many facets of Greek cuisine. Throughout our meal, the food is presented beautifully on a large wooden board. Everything is served family-style. There are spoons, knives and tongs to ease with the sharing.

Our first course is a spread platter - melitzamosalata, taramosalata and spicy feta dip. It comes with generous amounts of grilled pita bread and olives. The melitzamosalata is similar to a baba ghanoush. It's a blend of pureed eggplant, roasted red peppers, garlic and parsley. The taramosalata is a whipped carp roe caviar that is typically thickened with bread. It's light and airy, the roe flavor is noticeable. The texture reminds me of the time I had the baccala cappucina at North and Navy. The spicy feta dip consists of a mixture of minced feta, tomatoes, red bell peppers and chili flakes. Everything is melded together with EVOO. It's salty with a good amount of kick on the heat. I recommend tasting this dip last as you will miss out the subtle flavour of the other spreads. I like the fact that the pita is grilled to give an extra boost of flavours. 

Spread Platter - Melizamosalata, Taramosalata and Spicy Feta Dip
Spread Platter - Melizamosalata, Taramosalata and Spicy Feta Dip
Next comes the grilled cypriot haloumi. I'm a fan of this cheese because it is salty and it has the same texture and squeakiness as the St-Albert's cheese curds (or poutine curds). Haloumi is one of these cheeses that is perfect for grilling, frying or coat it in batter to make fish n' chips. It is a difficult to melt over high heat. It is best eaten with the sweet heirloom tomatoes to help tune down the saltiness of the haloumi.

Grilled Cypriot Haloumi with Heirloom Tomatoes
We next had the Greek salad which comes with slabs of feta cheese topped with fresh oregano. Simple and delicious. It's a great palate-cleansing dish that sets the mood for the upcoming heavier courses.

Greek Salad - Feta, Tomato, Cucumber, Olive, Oregano
Greek Salad - Tomato, Cucumber, Red Onion, Olive, Feta and Oregano
Our next platter is the grilled octopus and grilled calamari. The octopus tentacles are first marinated in latholemono then cooked over a charcoal grill - meaty with great amount of char flavor. For me, the thick part of the octopus is on the dry side. The grilled calamari is my absolute favourite dish of the evening. Often times, you will encounter calamari rings deep-fried in a bread crumb crust. Here the calamari is cooked whole, roasted over charcoal. It can be tricky to cook squid because there is a thin line between cooked to perfection and rubbery. The cooking of the calamari is absolutely spot on. I ate two whole ones and had the leftovers for take-out. 

Seafood Platter - Grilled Octopus and Grilled Calamari
Seafood Platter - Grilled Octopus and Grilled Calamari
Finally, we finished our meal with the meat platter. The owner Elias was very proud to serve us top-quality lamb chops and chicken. The quality of these meat is far superior from the ones we buy in the supermarket. The lamb chops are from Washington State, it's marinated in latholemono then grilled. The fat is well-rendered and the lamb has great flavours. The other protein is a Grade A Ontario chicken. All it needs is a touch of salt to elevate the natural flavours of this farm-raised local chicken. Roasting makes everything delicious. I highly recommend ordering both proteins. 

Meat Platter - Lamb Chops and Roasted Chicken
Meat Platter - Washington State Lamb Chops and Grad A Ontario Roasted Chicken
Overall, everything was delicious and the chef stays true to his roots in introducing authentic Greek food to Ottawa. Their hospitality and their passion are clearly shown throughout the whole service and their food. I definitely revisit to EVOO with my own group of foodie friends.

EVOO Greek Kitchen
438 Preston St.
Ottawa, ON
K1S 4N4
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