Saturday, July 12, 2008

Milos: A Worthy Tasting Menu for a Birthday Treat

I don't write up a lot of restaurants, and when I do sing a restaurant's praises it is usually buried in a tasting note, but I was sufficiently impressed that I thought I should shout out this legendary Montreal institution.

Milos is high-end Greek, spanning the globe with locations in Montreal, New York and Athens. Now I've lived in Montreal for 14 years and I have never tried this place, despite numerous glowing recommendations. The reason for this oversight is simple - my wife hates seafood. The mere mention of Milos resulted in a "Milos? Oh great, maybe they will have a chicken breast for me". But I also think we sheltered a bias against high-priced Greek food - I mean, Greek is fast food (souvlaki pita, gyros), right?

Well, the surprise arrival of a babysitter on my wife's birthday sufficiently disarmed her, and her suspicious glare was greeted with a "But honey, I heard that they have really AWESOME lamb". It was a freebie, and she was kind enough to go along with it...

The restaurant had a pleasant, natural, Mediterranean feel to it with beautiful paintings and white stucco, and with fresh a evening breeze at 27 Celsius and wide open windows we could have been in the Greek Islands...

Feeling rather adventurous, my wife and I went for the tasting menu, which featured a selection of unpronounceable Greek wines (some of which were private imports) to pair with a carefully selected flight of Greek specialties. 

The first dish was the grilled octopus, stunning in its simple treatment (olive oil, onions, peppers) and grilled to perfection - no rubbery tentacles tonight. The star of the night, I could have had this for a main course (next time I might!). This was paired with a glass of 2006 Domaine Gerovassiliou, a white blend of Assyrtiko and Malagousia (50:50). 

Next up was a succulent plate of "crab cakes", perhaps a misnomer as these were a long way from cheap east coast variety, with great balance in the spiciness and not too oily (the menu claims 95% crab meat). This was paired with the 2004 Domaine Katsaros Chardonnay

My main course was a plate of grilled shrimp, skillfully paired with the 2005 Biblia Chora Areti, a wine fashioned from 100% Assyrtiko. 

Even dessert was to die for, with the freshest, most succulent, melt-in-your-mouth Baklava I have ever tasted, delightfully paired with a Greek muscat dessert wine, the widely available NV Samos Muscat dessert wine.

As a wine guy I would have to say that none of the wines, standing on their own, "wowed" me per se, although the Assyrtiko-based wines by Gerovassiliou and Biblia Chora were particularly impressive - I do think the Greeks should play up the indigenous varieties (i.e. Assyrtiko) rather than falling into the "Chardonnay trap". But with this stunning meal the pairings were perfect, a fine reflection on the sommelier who obviously put some thought into this - I would rather have a great pairing than a great wine that doesn't work with the meal in front of me. Even the glassware was spotless and odourless (yes, I sniff the empty glasses), with a new set of glasses for each new wine.

As a food guy, I was extremely impressed. I appreciate balance in my meals, as in my wines, and everything was done just right. I especially commend the chef both for the freshness and quality of the seafood, and for the meticulous preparation - too many seafood restaurants just can't get that perfect texture with seafood. Milos did (Cafe Ferreira can, but that's for another night), and for that reason alone seafood lovers should rush to this fine establishment.   

But that comes with a price caveat - Milos did not come cheap. But impeccably grilled seafood (lamb for my wife), perfectly matched wine and exemplary service don't come cheap. 

A hearty bravo! I will be back, and next time my wife will ask to go.


Marcus said...

Did someone say "$20 weekday lunch special"!?

Joe said...

Yes, I seem to recall you mentioning the lunch special...I'm game!