Guys with strange names moved here from Greece to open the first of what they promise to be many food establishments. Kouzina will be their ode to their homeland and second outpost in Miami. The first is downtown's Freshko Gourmet Espresso Bar, which they hope to turn into a franchise.
Yiannis Sotiropoulos and Efthimios Paliouras moved here 11 months ago and left their families in Greece. They own nightclubs and restaurants in Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini. They chose Miami because of its Mediterranean appeal. "People in Greece are depressed. In Miami there's the beach, the weather, and it's not as competitive as New York," Sotiropoulos says. "Miami is still very underdeveloped, and there's an existing need for places to eat and lounge in downtown and midtown."
How would these guys who own clubs and restaurants in Greece know anything about Miami? Well, Sotiropoulos has been working in the industry since age 17. Yiannis was a doorman, while Efthimios (his nickname is Makis -- way easier) got his start as a bartender. They are working with George Yiannikakis, who moved here three years ago.
Today is the day. "We're aiming for Tuesday, but you never know," George says right after returning from passing a beer-and-wine inspection. The trio is holding off on a liquor license for the time being. But they're setting up a bar inside and outside. And although neither is complete, the menus paint a pretty picture of what customers can expect.
Besides, food is more important than décor, and that's the main focus at the moment. Their chef, Alexia Apostolidi, arrived last week from Greece, although it's not her first time in Miami. She lived and worked here three years ago, in the kitchen of Ariston. Although Ariston no longer exists, it was named Best Greek Restaurant by New Times in 2009. "I want to focus on homey flavors from villages in Greece," Apostolidi says. "It will be traditional but different, with the difference being evident in the ingredients used."
So expect herbs from Greece, extra-rich olive oils, honey, and pungent kalamata olives on the menu. The cost per person will be about $30. And there will be a DJ.
Get acquainted with the kitchen of Kouzina and chef Apostolidi before it opens.
KOUZINA GREEK BISTRO
TZATZIKI-creamy yogurt dip with shredded fresh cucumber, garlic and extra virgin olive oil
EGGPLANT SPREAD- fire roasted eggplant spread with flavorful Greek vinegars
HUMMUS-smooth chickpea spread with a hint of garlic, tahini and sweet paprika
MIXED DIP PLATER- tzatziki, eggplant spread, hummus with pita bread
TYROKAFTERI-cherry tomatoes stuffed with spicy feta, crispy pita
MEZE FROM THE SEA
CRISPY CALAMARI-lightly breaded calamari, garlic chervil aioli, wedge of lemon
CALAMARI BASIL PESTO- sautée calamari with basil pesto and crunchy shredded kataifi phyllo
OUZO SHRIMP- shrimp deglazed with ouzo, fennel, Greek green olives
MARINATED OCTOPUS- octopus pickled with Greek vinegars and herbs, pepper medley salsa
STEAMED MUSSELS- mussels scented with white wine sauce, zucchini "ravioli"
BACALAO CROQUETTES- fried croquettes of bacalao, roasted garlic pure, roasted beet coulis
GREEK STYLE SEA BASS "MARINATO"-sea bass cooked in lemon juice, topped with basil chili oil
MEZE FROM THE LAND
SPANAKOPITA- home made spinach pie with crunchy phyllo dough
FRIED KEFTEDES- juicy fried meatballs stuffed with feta cheese and mint
FETA ENVELOPE-barrel feta wrapped in phyllo dough drizzled with mountain honey and sesame seeds
SAGANAKI- soft kasseri cheese enflamed with Greek Brandi
ZUCCHINI FRIES- fried zucchini sticks, Greek yogurt dip
DAKOS- Grecian bruschetta, barley bread, fresh crushed tomatoes, barrel feta, mountain oregano, EVOO
SPINACH & CHICKPEAS- spinach leaves, scallions, caramelized onions, dill, feta, chickpeas, phyllo crisps, sparkling white wine vinaigrette
BEET SALAD- mixed greens, frisee salad, beet goat cheese mousse "ravioli", walnut oil & pomegranate vinaigrette
COOL GREEN BEAN SALAD- green beans with crumbled feta cheese, mint, toasted almonds and lemon vinaigrette
ARTICHOKES AND ARUGULA- artichokes, arugula, smoked red peppers, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, sliced onions, Kefalotyri cheese flakes, pita croutons and balsamic vinaigrette
GREEK SALAD- tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, onions, capers, Kalamata olives, barley bread & EVOO
ADD Grilled chicken breast, Grilled Shrimp
KOUZINA LAMB -grilled lamb rack with Greek mitzithra dry cheese & mountain herbs crust served with lemon potatoes and sauté zucchini with garlic
SLOW ROASTED PORK BELLY- glazed with mountain thyme honey, served with semolina cake and charred fennel
SANTORINI CHICKEN BREAST - chicken breast stuffed with arugula, goat cheese, Sundried tomatoes and red peppers topped with a sweet mustard herb sauce served with green house salad
BEEF TENDERLOIN "SOUVLAKI"- skewered beef tenderloin on the grill with tomatoes and peppers, tzatziki dip, marinated onions and pita bread
WHOLE FISH OF THE DAY- served with spinach dill and artichoke orzo
SEAFOOD ORZO "SAGANAKI"- shrimp, mussels, calamari cooked in orzo with tomato sauce topped with feta
oven roasted lemon potatoes
hand cut fries, kefalotyri cheese,oregano
semolina purée with graviera dry cheese
green beans sauted with tomatoes
spinach with artichokes, herbs orzo
Greek yogurt and white chocolate cheesecake with traditional syrupy fruit of the season
Chocolate lava cake with sokofreta ice cream
Baklava, crispy phyllo with walnuts and cinnamon dredged in sweet syrup
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Alexia, besides being a chef, has also done TV in Greece. Check out the likable chef's debut on YouTube as she teaches viewers to make mousakas.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha.