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July 28, 2011

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Restaurant trio offers real taste of Greece

TAVERNA" is Greek for "tavern," a place where people gather to eat and drink, and also for travelers to receive lodging. And local restaurant chain Greek Taverna strives to offer Shanghai exactly what its name embodies - the warm experience of authentic Greek food and hospitality.

"All we want is for our customers to feel at home," says Pavlos Katsivardas, the restaurant's general manager. "We want to provide the best Greek food, with the best Greek hospitality."

After its first restaurant opened in Gubei around three and a half years ago, the business has since expanded along with a higher demand for the Greek experience. They recently opened their third restaurant two months ago on Yueyang Road.

"We appreciate the Chinese culture very much, and want to give back by educating them about what Greek culture and food are like," Katsivardas explains.

Greek Tarvena's strong principles of Greek hospitality are portrayed through the restaurant's cozy ambience and friendly service. With a white and light blue interior, the restaurant's setting is as homey as Katsivardas attests it to be.

"Greek hospitality is this - whenever you invite someone into your home, you treat them like your own family," he says.

The restaurant's third location in Xuhui District also features a rooftop terrace - where customers can choose to enjoy their meal with a view of one of Shanghai's most cosmopolitan areas.

Having garnered much experience in food and hospitality industry for the past 20 years, Katsivardas confidently lists the three basic keys to a successful restaurant to be its food, price and service. Indeed, while Greek Taverna never fails to extend a warm welcome to all who walk through its doors, its food also exceeds in authenticity, taste and quality.

"Greek food is healthy, that's why the Greeks are very good athletes. Why do you think the Olympic Games was first held in Greece?" Katsivardas jokes.

Without a doubt, the restaurant lives up to its promised standards of high food quality and freshness. While most of the restaurant's poultry is imported from Europe and Australia, its Greek chef also hand-makes certain ingredients - including feta cheese and Greek yogurt. Also, the chef only uses extra-virgin oil, the purest and healthiest form of olive oil.

The owner also has a farm located three hours from Shanghai, where he oversees the growing of certain vegetables such as tomatoes, spinach and cucumbers, along with the rearing of sheep and goats.

"However, our farm is not large enough to produce for three restaurants, so we only use fresh homegrown vegetables during the seasonal months," Katsivardas says.

Greek Taverna's menu boasts a variety of meze (appetizers), of which a popular choice is keftedes at 45 yuan (US$6.98), Greek seasoned meatballs made of minced lamb, onion, mint, flour and extra-virgin olive oil. With a moist texture and spice-infused flavor, the meatballs are eaten without any sauce or dip.

Also, a must-try is the restaurant's homemade tzatziki. For 35 yuan, the appetizer comes with pita bread that is placed lightly on the grill right before being served. Tzatziki is a light combination of Greek strained yogurt, fresh garlic, extra-virgin olive oil and shredded cucumber.

The cooling dip is especially appetizing during Shanghai's hot summer, and pairs perfectly with the restaurant's freshly toasted homemade pita bread.

As for main dishes, Katsivardas pegs moussaka (70 yuan) as Greek Taverna's most popular choice among their customers. Topped with a layer of bechamel sauce sprinkled with shredded kefalograviera cheese, the dish features more layers of minced beef, boiled potato slices and sauteed eggplant, and is baked until golden brown.

Upon first glance, the moussaka almost seems like a combination between Italian lasagna and British shepherd's pie. Its flavor, however, proves to be distinct and is characteristic of authentic Greek cuisine.

Address: 1 Yueyang Rd

Tel: 6431-7751


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