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Jun 20, 2009 09:08 AM

Review - Calypso Taverna in Calgary

So after scanning the scarce entries for this new-ish restaurant here on the boards, the positive reviews from the Sun and FFWD Weekly convinced us to give it a try last night. As background, Santorini is our favourite Greek place in the city (can't beat that roast lamb), with Plaka coming in second.

I believe that an Indian restaurant used to occupy the same space on Centre Street and about 21st Avenue NW. The banner is not only plain, it seems downright unappealing to the average consumer - "Calypso Taverna : Greek Dishes, Steak, Pasta". Now right away that says to me that this place could be one of those all-in-one type of Greek places, rather than an authentic experience.

The decor is nice and simple inside, dark wood floors and cozy booths. Nothing extravagant, but simple and practical. Our server was superb all night - we believe that it's a husband and wife combo that cooks and serves respectively, and the family feel of the operation can be felt throughout.

And the food, ahhhh the food. We started with a hummus and pita dip, and I myself ordered a bowl of fasolatha soup (bean soup which our server was DELIGHTED that I called by its Greek name instead of "bean soup"). Hey, that was one of my favourite dishes, dating back to when I lived in Vancouver and frequented Apollonia all the time. The server described how her husband made it fresh and it was very good.

Appies were a knockout - hummus was delicious and perfect consistency, and pita wedges were perfectly toasted and glazed with olive oil. Fasolatha was delicious - possibly the best I've had and an ENORMOUS portion! Great tomato base and lots of beans and flavour.

For the main, of course we tried the kleftiko (roasted lamb shoulder), which to me is the greatest indication of the competency of a Greek restaurant. Some places like Parthenon like to do a roasted leg of lamb for that which I definitely do not prefer, others like Santorini or Apollonia in Vancouver do it right by roasting the shoulder on the bone so it comes apart in hot and juicy strands that can be pulled with only a fork.

The kleftiko at Calypso is top-notch, on par with Santorini with a couple small differences. The portion seems a bit smaller, which is not a bad thing when coupled with the big appies we had. It is roasted on the bone and has a great crispy skin, well spiced and not overly greasy at all. Perfect amount of meat, and the rice and Greek potatoes were delicious.

So there you have it, and without further delay I will say this - Calypso is now our FAVOURITE Greek Restaurant in Calgary bar none. The service is friendly and genuine, the food is homemade and made with care and love (not a lot of salt or grease), and above all and what really pushes Calypso over the edge, the prices are FANTASTIC.

The hummus dip was $6 for a huge portion, the soup was $5 for a GIGANTIC portion, and the Kleftiko was $18. Yes, 18 dollars for a good portion of delicious roast lamb, 2 big Greek potatoes, rice, vegetables, AND a side Greek salad. Ridiculous value, and one that trumps Santorini in embarassing fashion.

In short, every dish was at least on par with (if not better) than those at Santorini, and the price point was significantly lower. A wonderful experience and I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone to check out - let's keep these wonderful small family businesses going.

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  1. OH awesome! Thanks for the review! I had given up on the possibility of tasty AND inexpensive Greek food in Calgary (Having been spoiled by several in Vancouver) ... Can't wait to try this one.

    1. We tried Calypso finally last night. I've driven by and noticed it many times but it didn't look overly appealing, in a strip mall. Wow, were we suprised. Everything was delicious. We started with saganaki ($12) and hummus dip ($6). All of the meals seem to come with greek/or ceasar (not very greek I know) salad or soup, veggie mix (beans, zuccini, brocoli, carrot), lemon potatoe and rice. I had the ceasar salad, asking for dressing on the side. The dressing was very thick and garlicly. I could taste olive oil, no mayonsaise. I believe it was homemade. I ordered chicken souvlaki ($18). The chicken was done pefectly. I've had this in other greek restaurants and found the chicken to be overcooked. My elderly MIL had pork tenderloin in a mushroom/wine sauce ($19). She generally likes nothing and always complains, but she actually commented that it was tender, juicy and flavorful. Hot Date had the roast lamb ($18!) which was also delicious. I normally do not like Alberta lamb, which this was (we asked). But it had a nice crispy crust and tender inside. Apparently on Saturdays they usually do a roast suckling pig, but the waitress didn't know why it wasn't available this night (too bad, I would have tried that). The prices seemed more than reasonable to me (meal for three & 3 wines was $100). Unfortunately, we had no room for dessert.

      My only complaint was the belly dancer. Although authentic for this type of restaurant, she didn't seem able to read the crowd. It was a quiter night and no one seemed interested in participating but she kept pestering people. While we were eating she came and put her very perfumed scarf in our faces. My MIL was highly uncomfortable but this girl didn't seem to notice. I suppose she has to try to make a living. Not a real big deal...

      I'll definately be back.

      4 Replies
      1. re: TSAW

        Strip malls are where the best Canadian ethnic restos are. The uglier the better.

        When can we AVOID this ridiculous belly dancing? I can't stand the idea of some woman plying me with a perfumed scarf, and besides, since when is belly dancing GREEK? They should have stout, moustachioed men dancing together- THAT I'd pay to see!

        1. re: John Manzo

          'stout, moustachioed men dancing together'. That's your thing! I could do without that idea too! All my MIL kept saying was 1. that girl should 'cover up' and 2 'she's too skinny' !!LOL

          1. re: TSAW

            belly dancing girls,im sold they serve food there too right?

            1. re: howlin

              better get over there, howlin!

      2. adding link: Calypso Greek Taverna

        Calypso Greek Taverna
        2101 Centre St NW, Calgary, AB T2E 2T2, CA

        1. Just out of curiosity, where does "Calypso" arise with the food featured being Greek dishes, steak and pasta?

          Is this a case where a Carribean flavoured spot was bought out by new owners?

          3 Replies
          1. re: Bob Mac

            Calypso is a sea nymph in the Odyssey.

            1. re: Shazam

              ...and who says CHOWHOUND is not educational?......

            2. re: Bob Mac

              LOL. I thought so too - the food was great and it wasn't that busy so we got onto a conversation about the John Denver song (about the Jacques Cousteau boat). Found out about the sea nymphs. Also correct pronunciation of Ionia (ye-nen-a).

            3. After reading this review and reviews on Urbanspoon I put Calypso on my must try list and finally this week got a chance to go for dinner.

              It was a great meal. For a cold night, I thought it was the perfect comfort food. We started with mussels in a tomato broth which was thicker than I am normally used to but the flavours were great! Fresh and fairly large portion. Only thing that could have improved this dish was if it came with bread or pita.

              My friend had the moussaka which was a massive tower on her plate. It was creamy and perfect for a cold winter night.

              I had the Kleftiko which was succulent, tender, and very flavourful. This is my go-to dish for Greek restaurants whenever I'm visiting for the first time... kind of to test the standards. Definitely the best kleftiko I've had yet in Calgary. The sides were potatos, greek salad, rice - alright, not stand out but not bad.

              We were excited to see that they offered Bougatsa (phyllo pastry wrapped around custard) and ordered an order along with Ek Mek (cake with apples, almond, and custard). Both desserts were yummy and great. My friend did say that she liked the Bougatsa better at Pegasus.

              Overall the food was great. Will go back. I was craving the food the day after going there the first time.