Written by Scott Joseph on .

Mykonos exterior

I finally made it up to the new Mykonos. Well, it was new 10 months ago when it started serving its popular Greek food again. Technically, it’s not new at all.

I first reviewed Mykonos back in 2000 when it first opened in the Springs Plaza in Longwood. Then it was called Mayerion Mykonos and it instantly served some of the best Greek food in town. Granted, there were only a few Greek restaurants in town back then. I remember that I liked the food, and I especially liked the lima beans. I think I even published the recipe.

But in 2016, the restaurant’s landlord informed the owner, Tina Karoutsos, that the lease would not be renewed. A medical clinic next door was expanding and needed the space. Instead of trying to find an existing restaurant that she could take over, Karoutsos signed for a new spot in the same plaza, directly behind where the original restaurant stood.

But the storefront had never been a restaurant, so it had to be retrofitted with all the equipment that goes into a new professional kitchen. You think your kitchen remodel took a long time? Mykonos was closed for over 18 months.

Simply Gyros

Written by Scott Joseph on .

 Simply Gyros exterior

Restaurateur Sunny Corda, whose current brands include Rasa, Southern Spice, saffron and Mynt, is stepping out of his Indian milieu and dabbling in a bit of Greek with Simply Gyros.

Located next door to Rasa, on Restaurant Row, SG is a fast-food style outlet for everyone’s favorite Mediterranean sandwich.

As the name suggests, the menu is straightforward and focuses on gyros. However, if your concept of a gyro is lamb and beef sliced from a vertical tower of meat that continually spins on a rotisserie, you should know that here a falafel sandwich is also considered a gyro. So is chicken, though in both cases I would classify them as shawarmas or doners. But far be if from me to be difficult about a place called Simply Gyros.

Olea Mezze Grill

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Olea sign

Greek is the latest cuisine to be given the assemblage trope.

Olea Mezze Grill is a new fast feeder in Maitland that uses the same conveyor line method as such places as Chipotle, Moe’s and, more recently, Italio. This is the “one from column A, one from column B” sort of process that Chinese restaurants have all but abandoned, but as it’s applied here and at the restaurants named above there are many more choices and decisions to be made, with your decisions carried out by a gaggle of food assemblers behind the sneeze plate glass.

Taverna Yamas

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Yamas interior

Let’s try to figure out why this restaurant is empty. And I mean empty in a big way. In the main dining room of Taverna Yama, I count more than 30 empty tables (three are occupied). There are darkened rooms around the main room of this massive restaurant that seats up to 500 people. In theory.

I don’t think the reason is its International Drive location. That would only explain the dearth of locals. 

Maybe it has to do with the massive fish tank just inside the front door, the fish tank with water so cloudy that it’s nearly impossible to see that there are indeed living things inside it. Maybe people see that and make an assumption about the cleanliness of the place overall.

Or maybe the loud music that’s more appropriate for a dance club turns people looking for a more sedate meal away. (“Gangnam Style” played shortly after I was seated, to give you an idea of the type of music I mean.)

Or maybe they were greeted the way I was, by a surly young man who walked up to me slowly and asked “Can I help you?” as though meeting a bill collector.

Taverna Opa

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Taverna saganakiTaverna Opa could do very well without even trying. The Greek restaurant occupies a large space on the second level of Pointe Orlando, ideally situated in the heart of the tourist corridor in proximity to the Convention Center. It could thrive on the continuous influx of vacationers and conventioneers looking for a diversion, something different, perhaps entertaining, while putting some food in their bellies.

Taverna Opa is certainly something different, even from the usual Greek restaurant. It is a constant party atmosphere, a celebration you’ve wandered into and are made a part of. The traditional Greek dance music plays at a conversation-stopping level, waiters and bartenders frequently throw handfuls of white beverage napkins into the air, creating a sort of large-scale confetti deluge. The staff may persuade you to join them in a line dance that snakes through the multi-room restaurant.

Greek Flame Taverna

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Greek_Flame_logoI had stopped in to the Greek Flame Taverna’s grand opening several weeks ago, but it was so crowded and manic with people having a good time with the buffet service and Greek music that I wasn’t able to get a good feel for the place. (Although having a restaurant so full of fans does say something about the place.)

I returned later to enjoy a more relaxed, less boisterous lunch. And enjoy is the operative word. I had previously sampled some of the meze, or appetizers. I liked the flaky crust of the spanakopita, a turnover-like spinach pie with feta cheese. And the dolmades, stuffed grape leaves with rice and beef. Greek Flame also serves an array of Mediterranean dips, including hummus, tzatziki, taramosalata, melitzanosalata and skorthalia. The latter is a garlic dip, and let’s just say if you’re on a date you’d both better eat it.

Theo's Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Theo’s Kitchen has reopened in its new space on Curry Ford Road. Theo’s had previously resided in the space on the corner of Michigan Street and Delaney Avenue where Theos_KitchenMediterranean Blue recently opened.

The new Theo’s is right next door to the Catfish Joint, which I reviewed recently. It’s a rather austere space: a short narrow room with a counter on the far end where you place your order. You make your choices from the menu board on the wall above the window to the kitchen. Very low tech here -- it’s the old style Coca Cola menu board with black letters pressed into a white field.

There are no descriptions, and some items might not be self explanatory. Such as the gyros. There was a king gyros, a supreme and a platter, but no clues as to what distinguished one from the other. And there were a couple of items on the list that I had no idea about. This is basic marketing -- you want to entice your customers to order something. (You also don’t want to spend all your time answering questions about the menu while a line is forming to order.)

Mediterranean Blue

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Mediterranean Blue has finally opened in the little box of a building that housed Theo’s Kitchen for just short of forever. Theo’s
Mediterranean Blue's gyro and stuffed grape leaves.

had occupied the restaurant near the corner of Michigan Street and Osceola Avenue so long that it became nearly invisible. Actually, I think I had just blocked it out of my mind. Despite its longevity and apparent popularity with many others, Theo’s was never a favorite of mine. In fact, I was always put off by the dinginess and questionable cleanliness of the workers I observed.

Theo’s, as I reported in this article several months ago, is relocating to a space on Curry Ford Road. Mediterranean Blue is the project of the children of the building’s landlord. The place has been beautifully spruced up and has a bright and cheery appearance.

Kouzzina by Cat Cora

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Although it has been open not so quietly for the past three and a half weeks, Kouzzina by Cat Cora had its grand opening Thursday with a noontime celebration attended by Cora and several members of her family. It was her way of demonstrating that the new restaurant, which replaced Spoodles on Disney’s BoardWalk, is a place for families to eat, drink and make merry together. What better way to prove that than with a shot of ouzo to toast the opening?

Kouzzina is Greek for kitchen, and the recipes here have been passed down through Cora’s family. There may be some slight alterations here and there as the recipes made their way from Greece to Disney via Cora’s native Mississippi, but there is a sincere attempt for authenticity, and most of what I tasted at the opening was quite delicious and worth recommending.

Taverna Opa

Written by SJO Staff on .

Taverna Opa is Greek gone wild

Frankly, I can Taverna Opa do without all the table-top dancing and the practice of constantly throwing fistfuls of paper napkins into the air that rain down on diners in something like a snowstorm with immense snowflakes. And I've never thought restaurants were the proper place for belly dancers; too much undulating isn't good for digestion.

And don't get me started on the ear-splitting music that accompanies the undulating, throwing and dancing.

But at the base of it all is the good Greek food that makes a dinner at Taverna Opa worth putting up with everything else.

The menu has most of the regulars that diners expect to find on Greek menus, at least in America. So you'll find your mousakas, your pastitsios and dolmades.

But you'll also find things like the lamb rib appetizer ($9), which were like any other ribs you might find in a barbecue joint but with a lemon sauce to offset the gamey flavor.

Country-style sausage ($5) -- Greece being the country in question -- served with red and green grilled peppers were another favorite. So was the taramosalata ($4), a creamy dip of salty fish roe.

Thallasino ($36), a sort of Greek version of the Portuguese cioppino, had a large skillet filled with lobster tail, shrimp, scallops, mussels, squid, crab legs and a grouper fillet in a broth of white wine flavored with lemon and garlic and tinged with tomatoes.

And the more pedestrian mousaka ($12) was a big brick of eggplant, potatoes and beef layers topped with a thick bechamel.
For dessert, be sure to try the house-made yogurt ($5), which had the texture of meringue but a tangy taste tempered by honey. There's baklava ($5) for the traditionalists.

Taverna Opa is in the Pointe Orlando, so the clientele tends to be comprised mostly of out-of-towners. But if you're going to get up on top of a table and dance with a stange woman wearing veils it's probably best that no one knows who you are.

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