Friday, October 14, 2011

Philhellene (Moonee Ponds) 10/2001

On Friday night at 7.30 you can run out of petrol trying to find a legal parking place near this hugely popular Greek restaurant. Surrounded by restaurants on a busy road the traffic is endless but once you get into the place you don't notice it at all because there is plenty of noise inside. It's not yet full but it's buzzing. There's a welcoming feeling about the place, the bare brick walls heavily decorated with family photo's and mementos all adding to this. It's Cretan owners promise provincial Greek cuisine and express their feelings for all things Greek even in the name Phil Hellene = love of Greek culture! Tables are small and hardly have room for the food. A black board has almost as many specials as the regular menu.
Bread is provided with oil. Butter is not available. There is a modest wine list featuring several Cypriot, Cretan and Greek wines. We tried their shiraz and pinot noir
style offerings which were pleasant and inexpensive. We started with a few entrees. Zucchini flowers stuffed with herbed rice were very over cooked which diminished an otherwise nice dish. Stuffed eggplant with 'mizithra' and goats cheese was a simple home style dish. Nice enough but not fabulous. A third entree, kalitsounia, a heavy pastry stuffed with cheese and mint, one of their specials, was not very special either. Enjoyable but not rave material. Mains were all substantial serves. We had two seafood courses, a cheese stuffed calamari with roast potato and a Greek salad. All pretty bland. A slice of sword fish also came with roast potato, a loose skordalia lacking flavour, a couple of lettuce leaves, lemon and some fabulous beetroot. This was followed by a very tender shoulder of lamb also accompanied by roast potato and and thoroughly overcooked bean and pea mixture. I'm not surprised that many people are not impressed with the food here if they have expectations of some sort of Greek haute cuisine It's not that at all and doesn't pretend to be. It's just good old home style Greek food. Desserts did impress. Halva ice cream had plenty of halva flavour. Best of all was the pannacotta with a rose petal, honey and pistachio nuts, which was the perfect consistency and taste. It turned out to have been made by one of our waiters, Phillip Vakos, a former Masterchef contestant!
Score 13.5/20

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