Cava: Cava of forgotten dreams

Cava of forgotten dreams

Cava: Far from cavernous
Photo: Marianne McEwen

High-end Greek resto Cava offers a great lunch deal

Cava is far from cavernous, but it does soar. The mid-sized room has white walls and windows that fly up, up high above the diners’ solemnly chewing heads, and the midday light pours in as though from a celestial bath.

Cava, like Milos, that other high-end Greek place down the street owned by Costas Spiliadis, has a great lunch deal. Twenty dollars and 12 cents (just like the year) gets you a three-course escape to good living. All is prettily presented, the staff cheerful and professional. And if you want to splurge on à la carte steaks, look to the one dark back corner. Behind glass are slowly aging chunks of meat, waiting for the right customer to beckon them over to the table.

I went with a friend who’s spittle-high in toddlers and babies these days. All mothers of young kids could use an opportunity to go beyond the usual mode of mothers-who-munch to engage in the game of ladies-who-lunch.

I opened and muchly sated my appetite with a holy trinity of dips, placed and garnished in a row on a rectangular plate. There was a faintly fishy taramosalata, more beige than the usual suspect bright pink; a very dense, potato skordalia, garlicky and sharp (perhaps too much so that day); a tyrokafteri of feta with red pepper that boasted a definite spicy bite.

My friend started off with a perfectly grilled squid the size of a child’s fist that oozed gooey cheese. A simple but satisfying tangle of greens beside had me thinking of gardens.

For her main, my slowly relaxing mother friend had the soutzoukakia, torpedo-shaped meatballs that originated in the ancient Turkish city of Smyrna, cinnamony and sweet, topped with a tangy and orange-red tomato sauce gently spiced with cumin. The mix of plain and wild rice it came with didn’t do any favours to the dish, as the grains’ textures were too disparate.

More reliable as an accompaniment were the fries that came with my meal – thick cut, golden, dusted with oregano. My lamb chops were a tad further done than rosy, but the flavour was delicious. Tender, juicy and salty in all the right ways. Next time, I may upgrade my meat experience for $12 to the filet mignon option, even though I’m more of a rib eye gal.

For dessert, we chose dishes of ice cream. Not that we’re inherently against fruit, the other option, but we couldn’t resist the unusual flavours on offer. The baklava one has crushed bits of walnut baklava throughout, a novel way to eat the multilayered pastry. Mixing what could possibly be my two favourite desserts – ice cream and baklava – is a sure-fire way to guarantee my fealty. The other ice cream was the startling kaimaki, a kind of resin, or mastic. We’re used to finding the piny taste in the Greek wine retsina. (Long ago the tree sap was used to seal clay jugs of wine. Though no longer necessary, enough people had a taste for the stuff to ensure that resinous hooch continues.) In ice cream, the kaimaki is a treat, mild and honeyed.

The lunch odyssey over, we returned to our regular worlds, fortified by the good meal. The midday special is a superb way to enjoy a place that would be too much of a splurge for supper.

Cava
5551 Parc; 514-273-7772
Lunch for two, not including tax, tip, wine: $40.24
www.cavarestaurantmontreal.com

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