Kennedy Gagnon, a server at Asteras Greek Taverna, shows off moussaka, a dish of eggplant, zucchini and meat.

Kennedy Gagnon, a server at Asteras Greek Taverna, shows off moussaka, a dish of eggplant, zucchini and meat.

Best of the City: Asteras chosen Nanaimo’s favourite restaurant

NANAIMO – Asteras Greek Taverna was voted Best Romantic Restaurant, Best Mediterranean Food and Best Restaurant Overall.

Like a champion boxer, Asteras Greek Taverna has defended its Best of the City titles from 2015 and even added another to boot.

The downtown Nanaimo restaurant is once again Best Romantic Restaurant and Best Mediterranean Food, as chosen by News Bulletin readers. A runner-up last year for Best Restaurant Overall, Asteras has pole-vaulted into top spot in that category as well in 2016.

A look at the menu shows a lot of tasty Greek fare – roast lamb, moussaka, tzatziki, calamari, spanakopita and baclava, just to name a few – but despite the number of Best of City plaques adorning the walls, Peter Paraskevopoulos, one of the owners, refuses to take credit. He is just the last link in the chain, he says.

“Lots of restauranteurs think the world (of themselves). What matters is not what I think; what matters is that the people they come and enjoy it … what counts is the people that come here,” says Paraskevopoulos.

Kelly Saunders, of Nanaimo, says she dines at Asteras a lot. It is her go-to spot for date night. She likes the service and the consistency of the food. Customers are always guaranteed a good meal, she says.

“The calamari is our go-to,” says Saunders. “It’s light and fresh and delicious.”

The moussaka is also a tasty delight that tantalizes the tastebuds, as I found out during a jaunt through the Old City Quarter to Asteras’ Wesley Street location.

Served with rice, carrots, potatoes, Greek salad and a lemon wedge on the side, moussaka is a lasagna-like dish composed of layers of eggplant, zucchini, ground beef and white (bechamel) sauce.

The entree is pleasing to the palate, with the vegetables and ground beef seasoned just right.

The carrots, potatoes, rice and salad complement the moussaka well, not bland and every bit as flavourful.

.@nanaimobulletin #bestofthecity2016

A photo posted by Karl Yu (@karlyubulletin) on Jun 2, 2016 at 11:49am PDT

The entire meal was delicious, especially when accented with juice from the lemon.

As a chaser to my lunch, I had ekmek, a pastry with a soft crust of unleavened dough, whipped cream, custard and honey, with shaved almonds on top.

If you like sweet treats, like I do, this is the perfect way to end a very enjoyable meal, as it wasn’t overly sweet – it was just right.

Paraskevopoulos says everything at the Greek taverna is of the best quality. He and his staff would never serve anything they wouldn’t eat themselves.

When asked to pick a signature dish, Paraskevopoulos points to the lamb, which can come roasted and grilled on both the lunch and dinner menus.

“It’s made the way it’s supposed to be,” he says “Lots of places, they don’t make it the way it’s supposed to. They cut corners to try to save money. In every business, we try to make money, but the most important thing is for me, for people to be happy.”

And as long as the bills are paid, Paraskevopoulos says he is happy too.

Visiting the taverna in the evenings is equally delightful, especially if you happen to secure a seat on a busy night.

There’s nothing like enjoying your food with the hustle and bustle of Paraskevopoulos and staff as they accommodate all customers – it adds to the atmosphere.

The owner isn’t lying about the food either. The roast lamb is succulent, with the meat falling off the bone and just like lunch, the sides are cooked and prepared to perfection.

The lamb can be complemented quite well with some red wine from the taverna’s wine list. Its Greek reds are particularly good as a pairing.

As to why people consider Asteras Greek Taverna a romantic restaurant?

“Me,” Paraskevopoulos says with a laugh.

.@nanaimobulletin #bestofcity2016 #restaurant

A photo posted by Karl Yu (@karlyubulletin) on Jun 2, 2016 at 12:09pm PDT

Nanaimo News Bulletin