Estiatorio Milos Marketa: Imported Seafoods, Homemade Greek Yogurt, Barrel-Aged Feta

The long anticipated Estiatorio Milos debuted this week on at 730 First Street on South Beach (305-604-6800) and wow, it's a stunner. The 200-seater is clad in white marble and polished woods of various tints, with virtually every inch of the space vying for visual attention. The seafood display features amazing fish and shellfish from the Mediterranean glistening over ice. It's easily the most impressive layout I've seen in this town, and also the priciest, with many of the species going for $50-plus dollars per pound. Owner Costas Spiliadis has ridden this formula -- beautiful setting, top quality ingredients, high prices -- to enormous success thus far in New York, Montreal, Las Vegas and Athens. South Beach? We shall see.

Sean Bernal, the chef in charge, knows something about serving imported seafoods to a large dining room; he was executive chef at The Oceanaire Seafood Room for many years. I don't want to say the restaurant and market are overstaffed, but I'm fairly certain there are more workers at Estiatorio Milos than were needed to build The Greek Colosseum.One of the chefs was standing by the seafood display while I was ogling the fish. "Olive oil, lemon, oregano, salt and that's it," he said to me. "You don't want to cover these up with anything more."

For our initial visit, we stuck to the "low budget" (in this case a very relative term) Marketa that takes up one side of the expansive space. It, too, is gorgeous, with a lengthy wood communal table running nearly the length of the area, parallel to a counter stocked with Mediterranean spreads, seafood salads, imported cheeses and other delicacies. Tom Sofianopolos, the Marketa manager, graciously showed us around and explained some of the foods. He is also in charge of catered events in the private dining room (yes, it is also lovely).

Lots of photos after the jump...

"The yogurt is 100 percent goat's milk, made in-house," Tom tells me. "It's amazing. We serve it with thyme honey from Kythira (Greece)." We move to the cheese section -- all the Greek favorites are on hand, including manouri, haloumi, and a delicious barrel-aged feta. Other imports, like the French Mimolette, are also available.

The salads being displayed included baby beets with roasted garlic and mint yogurt; American swordfish kabobs with huge chunks of the fish cooked with olive oil, oregano, and lemon; Beluga lentil salad, fava salad Santorini-style; jumbo shrimp; charred octopus, which exuded a pleasant char from the grill and is tossed with oregano, wild Santorini capers, red wine vinegar and olive oil. The octopus was delectable, and we also sampled a light Maine lobster/Belgian endive salad; macaroni & octopus, which is tossed with a hearty red sauce; and Iman baildi, a Greek eggplant/tomato specialty with Turkish origins. Salads are served in ten-ounce portions, whether eaten in the market or taken to go.

Naturally all of the main Mediterranean dips and spreads are prepared fresh daily -- you might consider them the Marketa's specialty, or at least I did after trying a knockout skordalia -- an emulsion of almond, garlic and olive oil. Taramosalata (whitefish caviar, olive oil and onion) and charred eggplant spreads were also a hit. Crusty country bread is served alongside, with some superior Greek olive oil.

You'll likely want some wine with your snacks. "About 90% of our wines are from Greece," Tom informs. There are maybe 15 labels available in the Marketa, "and over 200 in the restaurant." You might also ask for some lemon wedges for your glass of water -- sweetest lemons I've had in some time.

Jars of marmalades and spoon sweets line some of the shelves (olive oil and wine line others). "They're imported from Greece, and this is the only place you can get them." Mr. Sofianopolos reels off too many flavors to list, but here's a few: Lemon, fig, sour cherry, white cherry, white grape, and strawberry. "We use them in our sparkling cocktails as well."

Estiatorio Milos Marketa is a place you'll want to visit -- even if just for some mezze and wine at the Marketa. Hell, it's probably worth visiting if just to look at the fish display, which one might think of as a Museum of Modern Mediterranean Seafoods.

Estiatorio Milos
730 First St., Miami Beach

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