September '17 Magazines 89128 - Page 66

Haute Spot Elia Authentic Greek Taverna By Aly Wagonseller THERE ONCE WERE THREE GREEK MEN WHO LOVED yia-yia’s cooking. Using simple ingredients foraged from land and sea, she served them food that was unpretentious, yet flavorful, prepared using recipes and techniques passed from one generation to the next. They soon found their way to renowned Estiatorio Milos restaurant in the Cosmopolitan Hotel, and, while fancier than the dining of their childhood, all things seemed well. But prideful of their heritage and miffed by what was being coined as Greek cuisine in the local restaurant arena, they decided to write a restaurant story all their own; one that kept it all things Greek, serving zero frozen gyro meat or added ingredients they couldn’t fathom seeing on a plate in their homeland. Elia, Authentic Greek Taverna, located at 4226 So. Durango is the place they now call home, and it’s as close to Greece as you’ll find this side of the Atlantic. A modest and tiny space (the bathroom doesn’t even fit within the parameters of the restaurant), Elia, certainly isn’t fancy. Still, what may be lacking in wall décor and ambiance is outshined by other notable details that include linen table cloths and napkins, full sized silverware and plates, and the proper stemware you’d expect in more opulent surround- ings. In keeping with this uncomplicated approach to fine dining, the menu is straightforward, taking traditional recipes their moms used to make and preparing them just as they did in the kitchens of Greece. What? No feta foam? No funky fusion? Nope. They wisely focus on using the freshest fish, vegetables, herbs, meat and organic poultry they can find, transforming them into a plate of food you won’t soon forget. 66 Appetizer options are plentiful, and you could easily make a meal of them if you’re into the small plate concept of eating. We started with a dill-forward Spanakopita that hit all the creamy, crunchy, savory benchmarks a good version of this dish represents. Filling, yet not too heavy handed in the butter department, it’s some of the best I’ve had. Next came Kolokythakia; zucchini that’s thinly sliced and delicately battered in a crispy coating that turns the veg into an addictive chip. Served with garlicky tzatziki sauce, it’s a must. Beefy meatballs (Keftedakia), exhibited a fresh, minty September/October 2017 finish, and Tyrokafteri, an amazing baked feta cheese slab accompanied by roasted tomato, serrano and Fresno chiles, was also quite tasty, but the best was yet to come. How they make a simple, grilled octopus over-the-top delicious is sheer artistry. Aggressively charred, achieving a delightful, caramelized bitterness without going rogue, and simply dressed with slivers of red onion, exceptional Greek olive oil and red wine vinegar, these tender morsels made for a sophisticated bite fresh from the ocean. Perfection. Entrée offerings included various beef, organic chicken and lamb dishes, more casual fare including gyros and souvlaki, as well as several fish options. We opted for Lavraki (whole, grilled sea bass), and Solomos, a.k.a. salmon. The Mediterranean sea bass was presented whole with options for DIY deboning or tableside help by the waiter. Tableside is probably the way to go unless you’re a butcher, and despite warnings that there still may be a bone or two, ours was blissfully free of fragments. The crispy skinned fish was moist and buttery in texture, dressed in olive oil and lemon that didn’t overpower the delicate flavor. Salmon was of hearty size and perfectly executed, again with a well ren- dered, crunchy skin, and served with lovely golden and red roasted beets. That the seafood was the star of both plates, and that they weren’t tempted to add some fancy, nontradi- tional element speaks volumes to the confidence they have in true Greek cuisine. Less is definitely more. Asking our waiter (who was also one of the owners) about dessert, he recommended his favorite, the Galaktoboureko, something I can’t say I’ve ever seen on a Greek menu here in town. This is crack on a fork, with buttery phyllo and velvety, yet savory semolina custard perfectly dressed with a drizzle of honey that brings just the right balance of sweet and floral notes to the dish. I’ll never eat Baklava over this again. Elia is open for lunch, serving their lighter fare and appetizers, while also offering a three course, Prix Fixe option for $15 from 11:30 until 4:00. It’s an absolute steal and a great way to try many of their most popular dishes. To make dinner reservations, call 702-284-5599 or visit ◆