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789 Jean-Talon West

RESERVATIONS: 276-5223. HOURS: Open daily from 11 Am to midnight, weekends to 1 AM. WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes. PRICES: most meals are between $25 and $30 (wine, tax and tips included)
Here's the story: two Greek guys from Montreal go down to Panama and open up a couple of restaurants. They do really well. They come back to Montreal and open up another restaurant, heavy on Greek appetizers with a good grill. They call the place Panama and have a simple recipe: no loud music, no infernal bouzouki player, just good food.

Checkered blue and white table cloths, comfortable chairs, easy going atmosphere with more t-shirts than suits, basic taverna fare done well and moderately priced. Plates heaped high with freshly fried sardines or smelts, broad beans, grilled octopus, tzaziki, Greek salad, etc.

Fresh fish, lamb chops by the pound, chicken by the half cut into large chunks, nicely seasoned and grilled, rib steaks, French fries cut either traditionally long and thin, roasted or—the house favourite—in large circles only a little thicker than potato chips.

The wine list is thin but this kind of food tends to be a little on the heavy side so even the house plonk—boxed Auberge at $21 a litre—tastes good.

Desserts are few but nicely done. We tried yogurt which was thick and tart with a local honey that had a bit of a peppery kick. We also ate far too many loukoumades—sesame covered fritters coated in syrup—surprisingly light and delicious. If you want something less caloric, ask for fresh fruit. Coffee is good and the Greek coffee—served thick and sweet—is excellent.

Look for seasonal dishes such as patsas—a thick savory soup similar to tripe stew and served in the winter. On weekends there is kokoretst—a thick Greek sausage, and whole roasted lamb.—
Reviewed by Barry Lazar

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