Panos Kleftiko Greek Taverna
815 5th Ave N Seattle
I don’t know why, but James looks like a shifty bum in that photo.
So after my awesome day of snowboarding, James and I walked to Queen Anne for my birthday dinner. Panos had gotten a very high rating on Urbanspoon and Yelp and James had been pressuring me to pick a birthday restaurant, so I figured it was as good a choice as any.
Which reminds me! In February James randomly asked me what I wanted for my birthday, which was weird because my birthday was a month away and frankly we’re just not that organised. But at dinner with friends James was telling the story and that’s when I found out what happened. I had asked him the date (because I was filling out a form) and he looked it up and it was February 21. But his brain saw the 21 and went “Shiiiit! Oh God noooooo!”. Then he realised it was February but because of the panic he wanted to be informed for the following month.
But anyway, back to the dinner. We started off with some Greek booze.
I wasn’t a huge fan but James seemed to have fond memories of drinking it with his parents.
We ordered a bunch of small dishes to begin with. This was the pita bread and tzatziki that came with my main (which I generously shared with James). I love toasted pita bread – something about lightly charring it elevates it from “good” to “out of this world”.
We also ordered some baked feta. I was torn between this or the cheese that they flamed at the table for you, but the waitress said she thought the feta was better. It was salty and went surprisingly well with the wine. James was initially ambivalent but I noticed after his first serve he took another couple of spoonfuls. =)
I was less impressed with the other appetizers. This one was James’ pick; it was tender squid in a rich tomato and wine sauce, seasoned with clove and cinnamon. It was described as “spicy hot” on the menu but it wasn’t very flavoursome; I have a vague recollection of tomatoes, chewiness and a fairly lackluster presentation.
James also went with some orange and anise-seasoned sausages. This was better than the squid but not really anything special.
I chose the roasted eggplant topped with tomato and feta cheese. Once again there wasn’t really a lot to say about this one.
So 2/5 on the appetizers. Apparently our meals came with salads and they arrived maybe 5 minutes before our mains. I really didn’t care for the salad; all the leaves were drenched in oil to the point where I felt pretty gross eating them and didn’t finish.
James and I both ordered lamb for our mains. Mine was the special of the evening: a breaded rack of lamb with potatoes and asparagus (plus the earlier pita bread and tzatziki) on some fancy rice with herbs and seeds.
It was alright but the lamb was a tad rarer than I’d like (it was red throughout – I prefer it red at the very center but mainly pink) and once again super, super oily. Every time I picked up the lamb (that’s right, I ate it with my fingers) I’d have to wipe it on the napkin and I also had to keep wiping my lips because they were getting coated with oil. The asparagus and potatoes were also really oily.
There wasn’t anything wrong with the taste but the mouthfeel was a little gross and I find it offputting when everything comes out glistening. James fared better with his choice: slowly-roasted lamb baked inside a round of sourdough bread.
We were so stuffed by the end of the meal! I fed James about half my lamb (partially because of the oil and partially because of my fullness). At the end of the meal he put his discarded bones on my plate because he said he didn’t want to look like a pig. To give you an idea of how much we ate, the couple sitting next to us split one of the sourdough rounds. =/
When the bill arrived James was surprised at how reasonable it was. It was a little over $130 including tip – I guess it was cheap compared to his birthday dinner. Overall it was tasty but not particularly memorable and I really wish they hadn’t drenched everything in oil. But like I said earlier I don’t know much about authentic Greek food – maybe it’s supposed to be like that.
We ordered some baklava to go and rolled ourselves home. We had originally intended on eating it when we got home but were both feeling a bit sick so saved them for the next day.
Overall I don’t regret going but it didn’t impress me like it seemed to all the other reviewers. I mean, 90% on Urbanspoon? That is a high rating for what is a pretty average restaurant. I’ve mentioned this before but I really wish that Urbanspoon had a “meh” option. I didn’t strongly like or dislike Panos, but there’s no way this is a 90% restaurant. To me 90%+ is a meal that’s memorable in every way, 85%+ is excellent and 80%+ is very good. I felt like Panos was maybe 70-75%.