A drop kick from the ocean a few blocks north of downtown Fort Lauderdale's waterfront hustle, you'll find Thasos Greek Taverna -- the new Greek restaurant from first-time restaurateurs Gus Leontarakis and Sophia Mylona. The building at the corner of A1A and Oakland Park Boulevard was once a Denny's but has been converted into a white, statuesque establishment. Inside, the owners are going for an elegant, modern-chic take on Greek cuisine.
Thasos opened August 8., a long-time coming for the Greek-born co-owners who began planning it several years ago when they longed for a dining experience similar to food they prepared at home.
"We always found ourselves going to Miami for good food, and most of the time we would end up just eating dinner at home seven days a week," says Mylona. "You pay a lot of money [when you go out], and too often you don't get anything worth the price. If I go out, I don't want to compromise. I want the same quality of food that I'd prepare for myself at home. And that is why we created Thasos." They named the restaurant after Leontarakis' birthplace, Thasos, a Greek island famous for its wine, seafood, and olive oil.
To shape the menu, Mylona, who has a degree in nutrition from New York University, worked alongside consulting chef Giorgio Bakatsias. Thasos' kitchen is run by executive chef William D'Auvray, from Raleigh, North Carolina, who aims for simple, rustic cuisine without the need for heavy sauces, creams, or dressings.
Mylona says all diners receive complimentary warm, soft pitas that are served with house-cured olives and are best eaten with pikilia -- Greek spreads. Notable among them is an organic green chickpea hummus, a departure from the creamy, traditional version Americans are used to. Thank Mylona's sensitive palate: Mature chick peas are harder to digest, she says, so they came up with this version, which is hand-ground and has lots of texture.
Apo ton kipo, dishes "from the garden," feature close to a dozen different salads ($6 to $15). Mezedes, or shared plates ($9 to $20), are a great way to taste all the flavors of Greece in one sitting, which include everything from vegetable-based plates to seafood and grilled lamb meatballs. Baby sepia, also known as cuttlefish, are a mollusk that takes the place of calamari.
Main courses "from the fire" ($17 to $33) highlight the Thasos focus on seafood and the use of a large, wood-burning rotisserie. Lavraki is a grilled whole Mediterranean sea bass roasted over the wood-burning rotisserie flames. Another house specialty: flame-broiled shrimp saganaki, served in a broth of roasted tomato, feta cheese, and briam -- an iron-baked eggplant with basil, tomato, and cippolini onions.
Liquid desserts are here aplenty. In addition to what Mylona says is one of the largest selections of boutique Greek wines by the bottle and glass, the bar's handcrafted cocktails blend traditional Greek spirits like ouzo and metaxa with spices and flavors native to Greece. Carpouzo is a drink that gets its bright-pink hue from fresh muddled watermelon. It's made with anise-flavored ouzo -- an Greek aperitif -- Ketel One vodka, fresh lemon juice, and rosemary. Ananithos uses the sweet almond- and ginger-flavored syrup, Falernum, with gin, lemon, pineapple, and dill. For something stronger, there's the ouzo martini, a stiff drink made with Grey Goose a l'orange vodka, and ouzo and scented with orange-peel essence. The drink is a lesson is Greek spirits, made by mixing the ouzo with the vodka and slowly stirring with ice (ouzo will crystallize over ice, so the method for making this drink takes a few extra steps).
Desserts ($8 to $10) include the traditional favorite, baklava, as well as a yogurt and honey panna cotta served with a drizzling of preserved blueberries. Galaktoboureko, another traditional dish, is a creamy milk custard wrapped in phyllo, a Greek version of bread pudding.