My daughter recommended a Greek restaurant called Tasso, that bills itself as serving “Modern Greek Food”. We had friends from the US in town last night, so decided to give it a try.

Tasso is part of a restaurant trend towards mezze (Greek) or tapas (Spanish); restaurants that provide tiny portions of traditional dishes in the form of bite-seized snacks, usually eaten with some form of alcoholic libation (either ouzo or wine in Greece). The idea is that you can get to sample a larger variety of dishes instead of being filled up with a main dish. In Greece these types of restaurants are called “Ouzeri”, and are very popular in trendy areas of major cities.

But Tasso is not really in the ouzeri tradition. First, the food is a little more “fussed over”, i.e. stacked and sprinkled with little garnishes to give it a high-end, creative feel. And secondly, the prices are through the roof. In fact, Tasso is a testament to how creative we humans can get at picking each others pockets through “legitimate” slights-of-hand.

Here’s the deal: Take a dish that in a traditional Greek restaurant would feed one person as a full meal (or be shared by four as a snack) and that would cost about $15. Divide that plate into four very small portions. Then, sprinkle it with some baby lettuce leaves and some thinned out tzatziki, and describe it in some fancy terms, e.g. “Arctic char from the frozen waters of Hudson’s Bay, hardwood smoked over boubinga tree wood, and topped with ewe’s milk tzatziki” (smoked salmon). Now serve it on miniscule plates and charge $13. Suddenly, that $15 plate for 4 is worth $52!!! Now that’s a fast way to dramatically grow your profit margin. For example, the aforementioned Arctic char mezze consisted of less than a half an ounce of smoked salmon and cost, I believe, $13 (I checked the price on the web site but the menu wisely doesn’t show prices; a dead giveaway that the prices are likely to shock).

That being said, the food at Tasso was largely very good. There were one or two missteps, but the good stuff was really good. Nevertheless, with two bottles of retsina (costs about $12 at the liquor store) and enough dishes to feel comfortable, the meal for four was $300 including taxes and tip. That’s a lot for “snacks”. Service was mediocre; we had to ask for our waiter on several occasions in order to get some bread or order some additional dishes. And on  a final funny note: On a Saturday night there wasn’t a single Greek person on the staff – not the cooks, not the servers. The waiter mentioned that the owner is Greek but he was in absentia.

Good but not a re-do.

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