Kuzina shakes up traditional Greek dining

Several years and a few restaurants ago you might have known Kuzina: A Greek Inspired Kitchen as Athens by Night on 17th Avenue S.W. After closing that restaurant and leasing out the venue to various tenants over the years the owners decided to revamp the space and hand the legacy over to their children.

The space has undergone a lovely transformation. Designed in grey and white the large room features ample booth and table seating a glass-enclosed wine cellar and textured stucco and white brick walls with statuettes in shadow boxes. It’s a nice change.

The wine and spirits list has something for everybody and there’s a small but thoughtful list of beers on tap as well as in bottles plus a decent cocktail list.

We are warmly greeted by our server who spends a few moments introducing the menu and asking if we have questions. We decide to start with the classic horiatiki (Greek salad $9). It’s disappointing — the tomatoes are bland and the salad is scant on olives and feta which are usually the best part.

Our next dish is much better. Saganaki ($12) is a simple yet indulgent dish comprised of kefalotiri cheese doused in booze (Metaxa) and set on fire tableside. The name of the dish refers to the double-handled fry pan used to fry the cheese. Once the flames subside we dive into a perfectly browned crisp block of gooey yet firm cheese drizzled with lemon juice. It is sublime. If fried cheese isn’t your thing you may want to try the calamari or zucchini fritters as an appetizer or have your head examined.

For my main I opt for the lamb souvlaki ($21). The lamb is cooked to a perfect medium rare but what really gives this dish a boost is the creamy side of tzatziki. Thick and flavourful it offers a nice contrast to the rich lamb and is great with the accompanying (and delectable) lemon roasted potatoes. The sautéed zucchini and peppers served with the dish have the right amount of crispness and are also tasty with a nice dash of seasoning.

My husband’s entrée of Greek ribs ($25) fails to impress him. While there is nothing wrong with the generous portion size or the tenderness of the pork the dish falls flat. My husband would’ve preferred to get more of the lemon and oregano flavour described in the menu. Served with a side of Greek salad and those yummy lemon potatoes he’s hungry enough to eat it but wouldn’t order this dish again.

Capping it off we go for the recommended tough to pronounce galaktoboureko ($9) a dish comprised of phyllo pastry filled with a semolina vanilla bean custard and topped with a Greek simple syrup. Pulled together by this sweet silky syrup the creamy semolina custard has a pleasing grainy texture and the phyllo is warm and flaky. Dusted with just the right amount of cinnamon it’s a fantastic finale.

Kuzina is making a good effort to shake up the institution of traditional Greek dining and just needs a few minor tweaks to be a real winner. With friendly service a great room and that fabulous tzatziki — I’ll be back.