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Village tradition: Quality carries on into second generation

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Delectable baklava at Pembina Village

TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Delectable baklava at Pembina Village Photo Store

Pembina Village must be doing something right -- after almost three decades of existence, this family-run business is now into its second generation of ownership. Nothing seems to have changed in the 13 years since my last full review -- the interior is still spacious and serene, with a minimalist decor of pale seafoam green, accented by lovely black-and-white photographs, and seating either in comfortable booths or at tables and chairs, as well as on a pleasant, umbrella-shaded patio.

What also hasn't changed in 13 years is the quality of the food. Although the list of Greek specialties isn't particularly long, those that are listed are as good today as they were back then -- in some cases, even better.

There are only a few Greek appetizers, and the spanakopita has been unavailable on two tries. But they never (thank heaven) seem to run out of the wonderful calamari -- a generous portion of tiny, crisply breaded little circles, also available spiced hot ($12.50). Other possible starters are saganaki fried kasseri cheese ($10.99) or saganaki shrimp baked with feta ($11.99).

The main courses I tried were all very good, and the prices reasonable for the quality. This is where I first fell in love with the wonderful, oven-baked, Greek-style ribs -- dry-rubbed with herbs, spices (oregano predominating) and lemon juice ($24.25). The marinated souvlaki were all tasty. The pork was less tender than the chicken ($15.99 each for two skewers) but acceptable, but best of all was the lamb, with hints of charcoal from the grill ($18.25).

They do particularly well by lamb in general. Succulent lamb chops came four to an order -- tender, flavourful and precisely medium-rare as ordered ($21.99). A charbroiled rack of lamb is also available at a relatively reasonable $32. They also did well by two entrées that aren't listed among the Greek specialties: an eight-ounce New York strip steak with sautéed mushrooms -- a tad resilient, but with a fine beefy flavour ($20.99), and plump, juicy sautéed shrimp, which were fragrant with garlic ($19.50).

Not all the sides lived up to the entrées they came with. Although the included Greek salad was mostly head lettuce, and the oil hadn't come from olives, it was tasty enough, with good olives, a fair sprinkling of feta and ripe tomato slices. Both baked and slightly lemony roasted potatoes were decent, the rice was a nicely seasoned pilaf and, unlike the overcooked vegetables in many Greek restaurants, our green beans, carrot and zucchini strips had retained their crunch. But the fries were frozen, the tzatziki was consistently overdosed with lemon juice and the garlic toast was too thin, too dry and only faintly garlicky.

Those who have trouble making choices could try tackling the gargantuan Greek Platter For Two -- a terrific buy at $59. Actually, it would might take more than two Herculean appetites to get through the calamari (as generous as the la carte portion), six souvlaki (two each of pork, chicken and lamb), the lemon potatoes, the rice pilaf, the veggies, the Greek salad and the garlic toast. Also, in our case, the surprise (since it hadn't been mentioned in the description) of a rice- and mozzarella-stuffed green pepper. It can be delivered (as can anything on the menu), or you can save 10 per cent if you pick it up.

Most items are also available at lunch, but there are also single souvlaki -- on their own, with the above garnishes, or in a pita ($8.25 to $12.25). But to stray from the strictly Greek (or possibly not, since Greek burgers are so often delicious), the killer Village burger with cheese and mushrooms was thick, moist and packed with flavour ($7.25).

Like most Greek restaurants, this one also lists a few pastas and pizzas. The lasagna was very short on meat sauce and merely passable in flavour ($12.95). Our Village Special pizza, on the other hand, was delicious -- thin-crusted, topped with pepperoni, back bacon, mushrooms, peppers and cheese (from $14.99 for nine inches to $22.99 for 15 inches).

When we asked about dessert, our server recited a few, all from Goodies, but we persisted, and asked if there were any that were house-made. I can't imagine why she didn't mention the baklava first, since that honey-drenched wedge of super-flaky phyllo layered with fresh-tasting walnuts was delectable ($5.50).

Service otherwise was attentive, friendly and efficient. The wine list is limited, with a few by the glass; there are two from Greece, but in bottles only.

They do a brisk delivery and takeout business, and several specials are listed on the flyer that regularly turns up in my mailbox. However it's not a complete listing of what's available, and if you wish to order items from the in-house menu, there is a partial and almost up-to-date menu at pembinavillagerestaurant.com/menu.

marion.warhaft@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 14, 2014 C5

History

Updated on Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 10:22 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds map, changes headline

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