Monday, April 24, 2000

Worthy of gods

Posted on Mon, Apr 24, 2000 at 4:00 AM

The Greek island of Mykonos is located in the Aegean Sea. Its curving streets -- designed to confuse attacking pirates in the 16th century -- are today lined with restaurants that helped define it as a vacation mecca. Now a slice of Mykonos has come to us in the form of Mayerion Mykonos, a small, pumped-up bistro in Longwood, owned and operated by Dimitrios Salivaras. The menu offers generations of family recipes from the old country.

We were greeted at the door by a chipper gentleman who told us in a thick Mediterranean accent that his name was Nick, and that he was born in Greece in 1924 -- all before offering us complimentary glasses of dry, red wine while we waited for a table. Waits are typical here; the restaurant seats just 65. But the narrow space has been creatively transformed with high, beamed ceilings and stunning Mediterranean art. The bustling, open-air kitchen -- the "mayerion" -- adds excitement. Just about everyone gets to watch and listen as chefs whip up a fast-paced production of flavors, aromas and textures.

We started with melitzanosalata ($4.95), a glistening spread of chunky roasted eggplant blended with red wine and olive oil, and liberally anointed with garlic. While we loved it, we wished there was something to pair it with other than thick-sliced whole-grain bread. Pita wedges would have been more appropriate.

Much more impressive was thallasina skaras ($14.95), a succulent, smoky flavored charbroiled trio of shrimp, octopus and calamari, finished with a crisp lemon vinaigrette.

Although there are plenty of ethnic traditions, such as moussaka, on the menu, it's a good idea to explore the daily specials, sometimes tweaked slightly to accent the freshest available ingredients. "Grouper Mykonos" ($16.95) is not to be missed: The 14-ounce fillet of domestic black grouper was topped with a luscious melange of tomatoes, caramelized onions, celery, white wine and fresh herbs. Feta cheese was crumbled on top, and the fillet was broiled to a golden brown. Another attraction: a thick salmon fillet wrapped in layers of phyllo pastry ($16.95), baked to a delicate crisp and topped by mild sauce of lemon, dill and white wine with a hint of chopped onions.

Our expedition culminated with a complimentary treat: The waiter brought out a plate of fresh apple wedges drizzled with honey and cinnamon. It was surprising that something so simple could be so elegant and delicious -- the key was in the sun-ripened apples. In comparison, it was an off night for the soggy baklava ($1.50).

Throughout dinner, there was total attention and concern from the wait staff. Everything we ordered came in such generous portions that our to-go boxes quickly stacked up. But not to worry. This food did not go to waste.


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