I have to ask: why is the food at Greek restaurants so overpriced? Am I and Emme the only ones that find it to be pretty poor value for what you get, most of the time?
Always being one for trying new places, especially when they have decent ratings on Urbanspoon.com, I convinced Emme to visit Maria’s Taverna with me despite the fact that she and I both know that Greek restaurants definitely tend to be a bit pricey. Maria’s Taverna is no different, really, with most dishes costing more than $15 – pizzas, pastas, souvlaki, etc. Upon entering, we were seated quickly as it was still relatively early and the restaurant was empty save for one family of three. The ambiance was quite all right; the restaurant was clean, the décor (consisting of pictures of beautiful Greece) was decent, and the skylight is a nice touch and probably brightens the restaurant up nicely during the daytime. Unfortunately, we didn’t see our waiter for quite some time after that, actually. We were kept waiting a long while before the waiter decided that yes, customers are more important than reorganizing wine bottles (when no one is even drinking wine…?). After finally catching his attention and getting some water on the table (we were thirsty!), we managed to get our orders in. We would’ve ordered hummus as an appetizer, but decided that our meal selections would be enough, in the end.
Emme went with the Chicken Souvlaki, which, like all other souvlaki orders on the menu, came with a baked potato, a Greek salad, pita bread, and some sort of rice pilaf. Well, it didn’t come with pita, but a separate basket of pita came, so hopefully that was meant to be the pita that was listed on the menu as a part of a souvlaki meal’s package… Anyway, Emme took a bite and was not impressed. It was just “okay”. The chicken wasn’t really flavourful, even with the tzatziki, and the rice pilaf was just bland aside from tasting oily and slippery. Also, the feta on the Greek salad was not, as you can see here, real feta. (It’s one of those cheaper “feta crumbles” types that you can pick up in the grocery store… You know, next to the authentic, but more expensive, feta packed in brine?) And seriously: a Greek salad is meant to consist of olives. Plural. Not “an olive”. Tsk. Anyway, we were both disappointed, though the pita in the bread basket was good.
I love fish, so of course I didn’t go for the chicken, lamb, beef, etc. souvlaki, but the Prawn Souvlaki instead. Like Emme’s chicken, my shrimp wasn’t particularly that flavourful. It was good. But that’s all I can say for it. For my salad, I asked for the feta and the dressing to be on the side, if you’re wondering why it’s missing. In its place, the kitchen either missed or ignored my request to have the dressing on the side, because my veggies and single olive were all sitting in a puddle of oily goop. The potatoes, we suspected, were microwaved; there is a texture different when you boil vs. bake vs. nuke a potato in the microwave. It was mushy enough that you could have turned it into mashed potatoes on the spot, if you wished it. It was also extremely buttery — so much so that the actual flavour of butter overpowered the taste of the potato when you bit into it. The rice pilaf was just as greasy, and unfortunately the lemons we received must’ve been a bit old since very little juice came out of them.
Aside from the mediocre food, the service was terrible for pretty much the entire night. After ordering, the waiter did not come back once to fill our water glasses and was seen again only when he brought out our meals… and next, when he came to take the plates away and to deliver the bill instead. He was curt in his service – neither friendly nor rude – but I think the main problem is that his “service” was so limited, and he seemed to have no idea how to properly prioritize the things he should’ve been doing.
I hope that the high rating for Maria’s Taverna on Urbanspoon.com is for the branch downtown rather than its Kitsilano branch, as both Emme and I found dinner at the Maria’s Taverna on W 4th to be disappointing and, frankly, really bad value for what we paid.
Value: 2 [Overpriced, considering the quality you get.]