Monday, April 29, 2013

Pan: A Taste of Greek Cuisine on 'The Danforth'

A little bit of Mykonos is alive and well in the heart of the Danforth, one of Toronto's most vibrant and cosmopolitan neighbourhoods. Bustling with interesting shops, friendly boutiques and lots of terrific restaurants, the neighbourhood, one of North America's largest Greek communities, is also home to Pan, a wonderful Greek and Mediterranean restaurant run by Chris and Soula Kyriakasis, who embrace customers seven days a week with their natural Mediterranean warmth, gracious hospitality and authentic Greek cuisine. 

Pan's charming bar with chandeliers and tin ceiling

The evening we arrived for dinner happened to coincide with Taste For Life, an annual event to benefit Fife House, which we found out is Canada's biggest provider of housing for people with HIV/AIDS. Pan was one of 77 Toronto restaurants participating with the drive this night, each donating 25% of their sales from the evening to the Fife charity, in addition to contributions left by other philanthropic diners. Unknown to us, we arrived in the midst of this event and were thrilled to get one of the only remaining available tables — 6:30pm on a weeknight...who'd figure we'd need reservations!

Pan is considered to be the most romantic Greek restaurant on the Danforth 

Rich, warm and inviting, Pan is certainly one of the prettiest and most romantic Greek restaurants in the city, with deep persimmon walls, warm wood finishes, floor-to-ceiling wine racks and a parade of attractive bronze chandeliers with golden husk shades and twinkling crystals. Combined with the warm candlelight and attractive table settings, there's a seductive ambiance to the place.

The menu is full of delicious Greek and Mediterranean dishes

The menu features modern twists on traditional Greek dishes to create a contemporary culinary experience rooted in authenticity. Fresh flavours and a thoughtful wine menu make this restaurant and exciting find. We started our evening with a bottle of Villa Rubini Pinot Grigio from Friuli. Velvety and fruity, it was a delicious wine that paired beautifully with our selection of appetizers, or meze, that we ordered for the table. Our lovely server Penelope suggested we try the Trilogy of Spreads served with feta, olives and bulgur pilaf. We chose the Tzatziki, Taramosalata and Melitzanosalata, which were all excellent and arrived with a platter of warm and glistening homemade pita that was bathed in garlic and fragrant Greek olive oil. The tzatziki was memorable, and I was homemade in the kitchen.

We ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio, a Villa Rubini from Friuli, Italy 

The first of the mezes we ordered were hot and fragrant garlic and olive oil infused pita 
that are homemade in Pan's kitchen

The pita arrived with our order of Taramosalata cod roe spread, 
Tzatziki pressed yogurt and cucumber, and Melitzanosalata, a roasted eggplant purée 
with olive oil and garlic, served with feta, olives, cucumber and bulgur pilaf

With over 15 appetizers to choose from, in addition to six sensational salads and their signature Avgolemono soup, a traditional egg and lemon chicken soup, with dill and baby spinach, it was difficult to decide which meze to have next. As flames erupted around the restaurant amid squeals of delight and a chorus of "Opaahhhhh!", our decision was made — Saganki — a generous slice of kefalotyri cheese arrived, flambéed tableside with ouzo. Crispy on the outside and soft and gooey in the middle, it was gone in minutes.

Our Saganaki arrives table-side and set aflame...opaahhhhh!

Glorious melted Saganaki - Kefalotyri cheese flambéed tableside with ouzo...delish!
Crunchy on the outside and soft and gooey in the middle - it was gone in minutes

Horiatiki Village Salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, sweet peppers, 
olives and feta cheese in an extra virgin olive oil lemon dressing

Pan's selection of entrées is extensive, with dishes from the grill including Rack of Lamb, New York Black Angus Striploin and Syracusae Smoked Double Pork Chop, as well as dishes from the sea like Grilled Octopus, Jumbo Grilled Shrimp and Sautéed Sea Scallops, as well as a medley of Greek specialties such as Moussaka, Arni Yiouvetsi, Stifatho and Souvlaki, and Pan's daily $25 Prix-Fixe menu. Everything sounded so delicious, we decided to taste everything and ordered Pan's Mermaid Platter, a land and sea platter with grilled calamari, jumbo shrimp, mussels, rack of lamb, lemon roasted chicken breast and stuffed quail, served with mini potatoes and pan seared vegetables. It was perfect shared among four, but would be a hearty feast for two.

Our main course, Pan's Mermaid Platter, a land and sea assortment of grilled calamari, 
jumbo shrimp, mussels, rack of lamb, lemon roasted chicken breast and stuffed quail,
 served with mini potatoes and pan seared vegetables

Perfect for the four of us to share, it would be a feast for two!

The dessert menu was equally inspiring with eight traditional Greek sweets including Baklava, Loukoumade deep fried honey balls, Fig and Port Ice Cream and Galaktoboureko, a phyllo pastry wrapped custard which Penelope also enhanced with some Loukoumade which were garnished with distilled Greek honey, cinnamon and chopped walnuts.

Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek custard wrapped dessert in a thin layer of phyllo pastry 
with Loukoumades, which are deep fried honey balls topped with distilled Greek honey, 
cinnamon and chopped walnuts

Pan's bar area was bustling all evening

Feeling very decadent and bathed in the warm glow of an evening spent with good friends and fabulous food, we splurged on one of Pan's specialty coffees, a Monte Cristo, an intoxicating blend of Brandy, Grand Marnier and coffee topped with whipped cream. To our great surprise, our server Penelope arrived with four complimentary shots of Ouzo with cranberry juice. I asked her if she'd join us and with slight hesitation, she smiled and nodded. As we raised our glasses, Penelope shot her ouzo back in one gulp. Not to be outdone, we all did the same. As the evening lingered on, we had an opportunity to chat with most of the staff, as well as owner Soula Kyriakasis, who was very warm and friendly. The restaurant looks and feels like homeseamlessly blended with the delicious cuisine of Greece for an old world dining experience steeped with charm and sincere hospitality. It will take you back to the colours and essence of Greece, and I can't wait to plan my next odyssey to Pan. Opaahhh!

A Monte Cristo Coffee, an intoxicating blend of Brandy, Grand Marnier and coffee

Our server Penelope then brought over complimentary shots of Ouzo with Cranberry juice
...needles to say we took a cab home!

The bar at the end of the evening is full of glasses...

The candles are burning lower and lower...

...and we're the last to leave the restaurant - "Taxi!"

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