Rick mcginnis/metro toronto
The Greek Corner
Address: 382 College St.
Hours: Mon. to Thurs., 11 a.m. – noon; Fri. to Sat., 11 a.m. – 4 a.m.; Sun., 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Dinner for 2 w/tax & tip $30
***1/2 (out of five)
The first thing you notice about the gyros plate served at The Greek Corner, a new restaurant on College between Kensington Market and the U of T campus, is something that’s missing: The oil. The dinner plate that’s a staple at most of the Danforth’s venerable eateries inevitably comes with side dishes that, for most people looking to scratch their Greek food itch, are essential — rice and potatoes, a double shot of starch that makes for a truly filling nosh.
At Sasan Manouchehri and David Alvarez’s restaurant, the starch is there, minus the thin veil of grease coating every grain of rice, and the flavourful — but lethal — spicy oil in which the potatoes have usually been sitting for the better part of the day. The potatoes that come with the chicken or pork gyros plates are floury and light, while the veggie-laced rice is actually fluffy. It comes as a shock to a system accustomed to a thick shot of oil with every souvlaki or calamari plate I’ve eaten for three decades.
“We mix basmati and Greek rice together to make it lighter,” explains Manouchehri, a blend they’ve been refining since opening the corner spot two months ago. “The gyros we cook here, we get the meat ourselves, prepare it and marinate it overnight then serve it. What you usually get is the processed stuff you get from the food companies that comes in a tube — that’s the gyros most people have. The calamari we clean ourselves, everything is made ourselves, the vegetables are fresh.”
Call it a break from tradition, but it’s more than welcome, especially in an age of obesity scares and health concerns. It doesn’t take away from the taste — the Greek flavour is still there, especially in Manouchehri’s and Alvarez’s homemade gyros, the pork especially, which has a slightly oily texture that comes from the meat itself, and not some unwelcome and extended marinade in some steam table, an authentic pork taste that belies its marketing as “the other white meat.”
The menu is simple, with pita sandwiches and lunch and dinner plates, and a concise appetizer selection that features Danforth standbys like saganaki cheese, spanakopita and dolmades, and some novel innovations courtesy of the owners, who grew up together in Don Mills before spending a decade working together in the restaurant trade.
There’s the calamari diavolo — a sort of spicy squid sizzler that has a vague Asian touch — and the Greek fries; chips topped with feta, olive oil and oregano — Hellenic poutine, if you will. Everything is fresh and flavourful and as uncomplicated as the menu.
Manouchehri and Alvarez want to keep it simple, but have their eye on a few expansions to the space before the year is out.
“We’re putting a patio in, we’re getting into fresh juices at the end of the summer. We should have done that for the summer,” Manouchehri, laughs. “A little fresh, organic juice bar for the students. The thing with Greek food is the simplicity. The taste. You can feed a vegetarian or a meat-eater. It’s very simple, very tasty, and very healthy.”