September 2003 Edition
The Flavour of Canada

The Vassiliadis Family

Eugene's Greek Restaurant and Snack Bar

Casual Food with Big Greek Flair

by Sarah Phillips

"Anytime Eugene is around there’s big Greek flair" says a laughing Lee Vassiliadis, of his father Eugene Vassiliadis, founder of Eugene’s Greek Restaurant and Snack Bar in Victoria, British Columbia. It is all about family at Eugene’s. Serving up Greek comfort food in a casual and unpretentious environment is what Eugene Vassiliadis is known for.

It's Eugene's original formula and it's proven itself over the years. Some customers have been visiting Eugene's for over twenty years and they know that Eugene's food is consistently top quality. With many regular local customers as well as tourists who return year after year from places like Boston and Seattle, Eugene's has cornered the market on great food at fair prices.

"If you ate my souvlaki in '79, you will find that you get the same great taste today. That is because I use the same fresh ingredients as I did back then." says Eugene. You can taste this in his tzatziki which Eugene makes himself from homemade yogurt.

Some of Eugene’s most popular dishes are the Greek Platter for Two, spanikopita, gyros and of course souvlaki. The Greek salad is excellent - extremely crisp and crunchy, and desserts such as baklava and almond cookies are served fresh everyday. Eugene’s is known for good size portions and families can eat home-style Greek food at a fair price.

And, at Eugene's, the focus has always been on the food. "Some restaurants in town are concerned only with ambiance and forget that food is the basis of their business" says Terry, Eugene’s eldest son. But at Eugene's they combine good home-style Greek food served up in an unpretentious charming environment.

Eugene's operates two locations in Victoria and both of them possess a simple welcoming atmosphere. Walking through the doors of the downtown location, you feel as if you have entered a typical restaurant in Greece. The white walls are accented by blue trim and decorated with picturesque scenes of the Greek countryside and typical white-washed homes. The Oak Bay location has tiled floors and big windows looking onto a decorative patio area adorned with sculpture and greenery.

When Eugene started his first Greek Restaurant in Victoria in 1979, the palates of the residents of Victoria were more attuned to submarine sandwiches than souvlaki. However, over time people caught on to the great taste of Greek food and now the food appeals to people from all walks of life - from young teenagers, to families, to businessmen and seniors. They all keep coming back for the great food, the reasonable prices, and the laid-back atmosphere.

And Eugene also listens to his customers and tries to give them what they want. When a customer encouraged Eugene to change from pork to beef gyros to appeal to the North American palate, Eugene did just that. Changing only what needs improvement, and sticking to tradition with his food has garnered Eugene success.

Eugene's was one of the first restaurateurs to introduce Greek food to the Victoria marketplace and was also one of Sysco's first customers in Victoria. When Eugene started the business he needed everything, and Sysco has been servicing Eugene's ever since.

Both Eugene's and Sysco are focused on long term relationships and have built their businesses upon it. Eugene is proud to have built a business that his sons can now operate, and they look forward to a time when they can pass the business onto their own children.

Both of Eugene's sons say that Eugene still carries more weight and has a louder voice than the two of them put together. After all these years with only word of mouth advertising, Eugene’s has remained extremely popular. Eugene himself and his restaurants are fixtures in Victoria. And, there are currently plans underway to open another location so that more Victorians will get to enjoy a Greek feast at Eugene's. You can’t have a true Greek experience in Victoria without Eugene and his booming voice. ¨

Greek Roast Lamb

Serves 8

Ingredients

Leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat 4.5 lbs

Garlic, finely chopped 8 cloves

Dry mustard 2 Tbsp

Olive oil 2 Tbsp

Oregano 2 Tbsp

Salt 2 Tbsp

Black pepper, freshly ground 1 1/2 Tbsp

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 450° F. Place lamb in roasting pan. Combine all other ingredients and brush or rub mixture all over the lamb. Roast for 60 minutes then reduce heat to 375° F. Cook lamb to desired doneness. Check its progress with a meat thermometer. When inserted into the thickest part of the leg, it should read 140° F for medium-rare, 160° F for medium, and 170° F for well done. Baste lamb occasionally with pan juices. Rest lamb for 10 minutes before slicing thinly.

Murray Hall,Executive Chef

James Smye, Director of Food & Beverage

Renaissance Fallsview Hotel

Known as the honeymoon capital of the world, Niagara Falls attracts over twenty million visitors each year. These tourists all come to see the majestic roaring falls and many lucky visitors experience a stay at the Renaissance Fallsview Hotel.

This redesigned boutique style hotel is located in the prestigious Fallsview district of Niagara Falls, Ontario; offers breathtaking views of both the Canadian (Horseshoe Falls) and the American Falls. Its central location also allows guests to walk to many of Niagara Falls' most interesting attractions.

Luxurious guestrooms have been gracefully designed with a world class Renaissance elegance and guests can take advantage of the fitness centre, dry sauna, indoor pool and whirlpool.

And, when it comes to dining, guests won’t be disappointed. The Renaissance Fallsview Hotel offers several dining options - one for every mood. Mulberry's offers casual fare at breakfast and lunch, while Williams Lounge is a great place to relax and unwind after a busy day. Its signature 'Ice of the Vine Martini' is a favourite and diners can enjoy the casual pub style menu. The lobby bar serves Starbucks coffee as well as a light menu for early risers. Though a visit to the Rooftop Fallsview Dining Room is in order if you would like to sample fine dining with a focus on regional Niagara cuisine.

All Renaissance Fallsview Hotel associates try to deliver complete guest satisfaction. This combined with an unwavering commitment to take care of and treat guests more like family than like customers is what makes a stay at the Renaissance Fallsview Hotel so memorable.

Says Director of Food & Beverage, James Smye, "From the dining room to the kitchen and from the front desk to the housekeeping department - our goal is the same - we must please our guests."

Executive Chef, Murray Hall oversees all aspects of the kitchen, provides marketing ideas, menu building, staff training and development, and notes that the atmosphere at the Renaissance Fallsview Hotel is responsible for the high levels of customer service that the Renaissance Fallsview Hotel demands. "I'm proud to say that I work with one of the best kitchen brigades in my travels. Everyone is eager, willing to learn and do whatever it takes to satisfy a guest."

And that's quite the compliment given that Hall's work experience includes appointments in many demanding kitchens including the Marriott Castle Harbour Resort in Bermuda, the Maui Marriott Resort in Maui, Hawaii, the Toronto Marriott Eaton Centre Hotel and the Toronto Airport Marriott.

Says Hall "Having had the chance to travel and sample regional cooking and country specialties has allowed me to take that knowledge and build my own repertoire. Being a chef is an exciting career, the food, the travelling, cooking, tasting, trying new ingredients and building recipes."

When asked what inspires him to create, Hall explains that chefs create because they love cooking and that they are motivated by the cycle of always learning something new.

Hall admits that being a chef can be demanding "It takes a certain kind of person; you have to love cooking, you have to love working fourteen hour days, working every holiday and weekend, spending hours on plates, buffets, checking every last detail, dealing with problems whether it's food, associate or guest related."

If that sounds demanding - it is, and Hall's reward is seeing his customers appreciate and enjoy his creations.

Sysco has been a partner to the Renaissance Fallsview Hotel for thirteen years and Hall has high praise for Leonard Blais, his Marketing Associate at Sysco. Says Hall, "Leonard has been of great assistance in many ways and has always been there with ideas, support and to research new products to better suit my menu."

Hall takes advantage of Sysco's online ordering and finds the service at Sysco is professional and helpful.

Hall plans to remain on the cutting edge when it comes to food trends and his plans for the future are simple - serving the best possible meal to his guests, ensuring they keep coming back to the Renaissance Fallsview Hotel. ¨

Pan Seared Ontario Walleye with

Niagara Riesling Butter Sauce

Niagara Riesling Butter Sauce

Ingredients

White onion diced 2 oz

Extra virgin olive oil 2 oz

Dry Niagara Riesling 3 oz

Juice of two lemons 2

35% cream 4 oz

Whole butter (cubed, cold) 8 oz

Salt and white pepper to taste

  • In a small saucepot add olive oil and onions, sauté over medium heat, careful not to get any colour on the onions. Once onions are transparent in colour deglaze the pot with white wine, add lemon juice and reduce liquid by half.
  • Add 35% cream and reduce by a quarter. Strain the sauce into a stainless steel bowl and whisk in the cubes of whole butter one at a time.
  • Once all the butter is incorporated, finish final seasoning with salt and white pepper.
  • Place sauce in a warm place and reserve it for the walleye.

Pan Seared Walleye

Ingredients

(3oz) pieces of Ontario Walleye 2

Chopped basil 1 oz

Fine chopped garlic 2 oz

Fine sliced shallots 1 oz

Flour (all purpose) 2 oz

Savory cabbage sliced thinly 3 oz

Small yam peeled and sliced very thin (coin shaped) 1

Leek sliced very fine julienne 1 oz

Extra virgin olive oil 3 oz

Canola oil 2 oz

Niagara Region dry Chardonnay wine 2 oz

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Place walleye in a shallow pan.
  • Combine basil, garlic, shallots with 1 oz of olive oil in a bowl and then pour over walleye. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Place in refrigerator and let the walleye marinade for at least six hours.
  • In a shallow pan heat canola oil and fry the sliced yam and then the leeks. Reserve for final plate presentation.
  • Remove from the marinade and drain off excess oil, and dredge in flour, place the fish in a hot pan with the other 1-oz of the olive oil and sear both sides. Place on a sheet pan and bake in the oven at 350°F for approx. 10 – 12 minutes or until done.
  • In a hot pan add last oz of olive oil, and sear the savory cabbage. Deglaze the pan with Niagara Chardonnay, add salt and pepper to taste and braise the cabbage until soft.
  • On a large dinner plate mold braised cabbage in the middle of the plate, place yam chips on top of the cabbage, then the two pieces of walleye. Finish by pouring the sauce around the cabbage and top the fish with the fried leeks.