This Longwood cafe is small, only 65 seats, but it’s an appealing place with an exuberant staff and a menu of family heirloom recipes not likely found at the other local Greek restaurants.
The recipes, says Mayerion Mykonos’ owner, Dimitrios Salivaras, have been handed down from his grandparents to his father, who still uses the recipes at the family’s restaurant of the same name in Tarpon Springs, to him. Salivaras cooks those recipes with ease in full view of the entire restaurant.
In fact, Mayerion means open kitchen, nothing more exotic than that, though the pronunciation (MY-eer-e-on) and spelling in Greek alphabet on the menu might make you think so.
Several of the dishes definitely have an exotic taste, even in their simplicity. My favorite among the entrees was the chicken Mykonos ($10.95), which featured several hearty chunks of chicken breast meat sauteed with tomatoes, onions, feta cheese and various fresh herbs to create what the restaurant calls its Mykonos sauce. Not the prettiest dish you’ll ever be served, but certainly tasty.
For an array of tastes the combination platter ($11.45) of pastitsio, moussaka, gyro meat and stuffed grape leaves is the way to go. At many Greek restaurants it’s difficult to distinguish between the moussaka and the pastitsio, and indeed there are similarities. But here they were as distinctive as they were delicious. The pastitsio had large macaroni layered with ground beef and cheese, topped with a thick bechamel sauce. The moussaka had ground beef layered with thick slices of eggplant, baked with the bechamel.
The stuffed grape leaves, called fila here but also known as dolmades, were filled with a rice and ground beef mixture and topped with a sauce made of lemon juice and eggs, a nice complement to the pungent flavor of the grape leaves.
The gyro meat was not special, neither was it served with pita bread. In fact an appetizer dish of three spreads ($9.95), which included a wonderful tzatziki and a rather garlicky feta cheese spread, dips that would ordinarily come with pita, were served with regular leavened bread, good bread, mind you, but not what you’d expect with these spreads. When I asked the server why they didn’t use pita he answered, quite honestly, pita bread is too expensive. One could argue that the profit earned from demanding nearly 10 bucks for three spreads would buy a few packages of pita.
There was more honesty, this time from a different server, when I asked about the fresh fish selection of the day. He told me one wasn’t offered because it came in frozen and hadn’t thawed. When I spoke to Salivaras later on the phone, he told me he buys only the freshest ingredients, including seafood. He may want to have a talk with his staff on that point.
Still, the baked grouper ($17.95) I had instead of the fresh fish of the day was good enough. It was a large fillet, tender and prepared simply with herbs and oil. My guest’s roast leg of lamb ($9.95) was fairly plain and unremarkable, though the juices from the meat were perfect on my rather dry dish of rice. Dinners come with a choice of side dish and either the potatoes or the vegetables make a better choice than the rice.
Diners also get a choice of soup or salad with each entree. The soup on each visit was the traditional avgolemeno soup of chicken broth thickened with egg. Instead of the usual rice Mykonos uses orso. The soup was better on the first visit; it was too watery the second time. Still the soup was better than the salad, an unimaginative Greek salad whose only attraction was a small square of feta cheese sitting oddly atop the lettuce.
For appetizers I heartily recommend the patatokeftedes ($5.95), but don’t eat them there. Have the waiter box up the wonderful patties of mashed potatoes and feta cheese, take them home and have them the next day with fried eggs. A meal fit for Zeus.
The combo appetizer of charbroiled shrimp, octopus and squid ($14.95) offered some different tastes and textures. The shrimp were rather plain, but the half octopus with its black-charred crust and the tender rings of squid drizzled with oil were both wonderful.
For dessert the rice pudding ($1.50) was good, but the galatobutoko ($2.75) was stellar, a creme custard layered in phyllo dough and sprinkled with cinnamon.
Besides being honest to a fault, the servers were all friendly and helpful, and Salivaras made a point of saying hello to every table from over the kitchen’s glass partition.
Mayerion Mykonos is small and narrow but quite comfortable. The tables are uncovered and set with a large container of sea salt and a small pepper grinder. The walls sport bas-relief sculptures of typical structures and landscape features found on the island of Mykonos.
Just for the record, Salivaras’ family is actually from a small island next to Mykonos, but they named their restaurants for the more recognizable tourist mecca. The Mayerion in the name may confuse some – it certainly confounds the directory assistance people when attempting to get a phone number – but don’t let it dissuade you from enjoying some of the fine food from the Greek Isles.