A few weeks ago, on March 5th, I came upon a comprehensive piece in the New York Times by Alan Richman. It was a deep dive into the history of 72-year-old Costas Spiliadis, the brains behind our favorite seafood international dining empire, ESTIATORIO MILOS.
The article notes that Costas grew up in Greece and left 50 years ago for America before finally settling in Montreal and eventually maintaining an apartment in New York. What we like about his restaurants is his dedication to simplicity and purity. (For example, he abhors blackened fish, which he calls “a violence to the delicacy of the fish.”)
It’s worth noting here that Milos is “extravagantly priced.”
Costas is reported to be tough on others, and on himself. Richman reports that if he notices that something is amiss – like wilted flowers – he will pounce! “For what I charge,” he says, “people expect perfection.”
Joanne and I first visited Estiatorio Milos (Zagat rated 27) in New York in the late 1990s, shortly after he opened there. In addition to Midtown Manhattan and Montreal (where the first Milos opened), his restaurant empire includes sites in Las Vegas, London, Athens, and Miami. Two more locations are on deck: Los Cabos, Mexico, and Dubai. And Milos just opened in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards development.
The signature feature at all locations is an array of Mediterranean whole fish laid out on a gigantic, theatrically illuminated bed of crushed ice. Your server invites you to visit the display and select your fish, which is then weighed and priced for you. Most selections are in the $55-60 range.
While Joanne and I have been to a number of his restaurants, Miami has been our go-to spot for the last few years. And because it is so expensive, we were delighted a few years back to discover that the Miami location had introduced a prix fixe TWILIGHT MENU, available from 5:30 to 7:00 PM, for $39.95.
That meant that we could go more frequently and didn’t have to wait for a special occasion to dine there. We could just pop in on the spur of the moment and not break the bank – yet have a wonderful two-hour, three-course dining experience (always at window table #83). On January 19, 2017, I blogged about how pleased we were.
But then last year when we walked into Milos, our server told us that the Twilight Dinners were no more; only the regular menu was available. Don’t get me wrong here. The regular menu is spectacular. But be prepared to spend at least $200-300 for two people……more if your tastes include expensive wines.
But unless it’s Joanne’s birthday or our anniversary, that’s just not going to happen…and maybe not even then.
Well, they QUIT. So, I QUIT.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Joanne and I and our daughter and granddaughter stopped into the restaurant just to scold them for making such a bone-headed move, probably sent down from corporate. I approached the podium with cannons locked and loaded, ready for battle. I was graciously welcomed, and with a great big smile the hostess told me that they had screwed-up and they were sorry about sacking the TWILIGHT DINNERS.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when she grinned and said, “THEY’RE BACK!”
She immediately seated us at our table, #83. We proceeded by ordering a bottle of Greek wine, grilled octopus atop a fava bean puree, an order of grilled haloumi cheese with freshly cracked black pepper and a drizzle of Greek olive oil, and a sharing platter of tzatziki, taramasalata and skordalia for spreading on warm pita bread (Note, only the octopus was part of the Twilight Dinner. The haloumi cheese and the tzatziki were supplements, and of course the wine was extra).
That was followed by a Greek village salad with big, fat, ripe tomatoes and a slab of feta cheese.
Mains included grilled salmon, a pair of rosemary-laced grilled lamb chops, and a whole dorado (sea bream), butterflied and grilled with lemon, a little oregano and sea salt.
For the prix fixe dessert, our granddaughter made a wise choice and selected a wedge of nutty, honey-soaked baklava with a scoop of baklava ice cream. Our dessert choice was smart as well, and yet so simple: a dollop of thick, full-fat Greek yogurt generously draped with honey from the baklava and fresh whole walnuts (not pieces).
All was well again.
“Kali orexi!” — means “bon appetit”