Simpatico Ristorante

October 15th, 2005 · 2 Comments

Simpatico Ristorantese
Address: 2222 West 4th
Tel: (604)-733-6824

Mon-Fri 11:15am-2:30pm lunch
Mon-Sat 11:15am-2:30pm lunch;
5:00pm – 10:15 dinner

In Sync

By Christopher Craig
Eat Vancouver Columnist
Monday, September 19th, 2005

* and 1/2 (of four stars)

Nestled snugly amongst the Laundromats and fresh vegetable shops of the somewhat seedy hilltop point of West 4th Ave in Kitsilano, Simpatico beckons to the summertime passer-by. With front walls open wide to expose the ubiquitous Kits neo-yuppies inside, one experiences the common revulsion it is necessary to overcome in order to dine anywhere on the west side. Once inside, however, it is no chore to brush away such negative feelings and focus on the food.

The menu opens with a spate of soups, dips, and appetizers. The appetizers tend toward the predictable and unengaging. The spanikopita ($4.25) is tolerable, with the benefits of a weighty feta flavour being sabotaged to an extent by pastry that is somewhat overgreasy. The kalamaria ($7.25) is also the standard deep-fried fare, in this case with a price tag that puts it most securely outside of recommendation. A much more fertile area for the discriminating restaurant goer is that of the dips. Simpatico delivers a solid product in this arena, with a selection that ranges from the creamy and dreamy to the ground and profound. While the homous and tzatziki (both $4.25) are a treat to the palate, topping off the house pita bread ($1.75) in a most satisfying way, the gold is in the melitziano ($4.25). This sublime dip, made with a perfect mixture of pureed eggplant, diced tomatoes and capers that surely stands as a strong contender for the defining of a new culinary golden mean, is not to be missed.

Being a Greek restaurant in Vancouver, the menu is framed around the lamb. In Simpatico this is as it should be. Of the two offerings in this category, the rack of lamb ($13.95) comes off as second best. This is not, however, to suggest that it is not a good dish. Coated with a subtle sauce of mint, garlic and wine that takes full advantage of the rich natural flavour of the lamb, the only real criticism that can be levelled is that the meat is not as moist as it might be. To remedy this, move one item up on the menu. Simpatico’s Roast Lamb Shoulder forms a worthy centrepiece of the menu and a compelling reason to return on a regular basis. Slow-cooked all damn day, the meat is tender enough to carve with a hard stare and flavoured to near-perfection. Despite the natural muskiness of lamb, this dish somehow manages to convey a sense of subtlety, with layers of flavour that unfold like a paper fan.

Outside of the two lamb dishes, the menu is much less consistent. Best of them all, and a strong contender with the roast lamb shoulder for best of the bunch, is the moussaka ($12.95). This gorgeous little offering serves up a muscular flex of flavour, working an eye-opening piece of culinary alchemy between the slick moisture of ground sirloin and the thrillingly complex sweetness of béchamel sauce. Outside of the moussaka, there is little of interest in the entrees. The Cornish game hen and polla a la cacciatore are uninspiringly standard fare, accomplishing nothing that isn’t done better elsewhere. Jumping into the realm of the truly awful are the sweet basil spareribs ($13.95). Despite the application of an oppressively heavy garlic and basil sauce, the unfiltered stink of previously frozen meat defines the dish. The mastery of the slow-cooking process that is so apparent in the lamb shoulder is abysmally absent here.

Dessert is largely unnecessary at Simpatico. As all entrées include a generous helping of rice, Greek salad and roasted potatoes, anyone who could still fit sweet finales on top probably shouldn’t.

All in all, Simpatico is not a bad place to eat. The lamb and moussaka are both excellent dishes that are worth chasing, and the price goes beyond the rhetoric of affordability that is encountered so often and is actually affordable. The service varies quite noticeably by the location of your table, but you are generally taken care of. If it’s a night of good food at a better price that you’re after, take a look at Simpatico.

(photograph by Shoshanna Paul, © 2005)

Christopher Craig is a Master’s student at The University of British Columbia. Besides being a student of all things epicurean, he also studies Japanese history.

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Tags: Greek

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bob // Apr 29, 2008 at 7:30 am

    Friday’s they have a lunch special; Lamb in Foil for $9.99(used to be $8.99). It’s as good as the roast lamb and around $4 cheaper. If I’m in the neighborhorhood on that day it’s a must.

  • 2 Jason // May 1, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Great tip, Bob.

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