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Mike Cohen happily returns to Elounda: Mediterranean cuisine at its best

    I cannot explain exactly why it had been 10 years since I last dined at Elounda (www.restaurantelounda.com), a spectacular Greek restaurant in St. Laurent specializing in fine Mediterranean cuisine. But when our family party of five left after a nearly three hour feast of an experience we all agreed that we will be back very soon.

    Elounda was established in 2003 by Gary Makris and Haralambos (Bobby) Michailidis. As Bobby told me, he and Gary`s first order of business was to lure their good friend Tasso Konidis over as a partner and head chef. Tasso was rather busy, having head the kitchen at Milos on Park Avenue for the previous 20 years. This included launching the Milos brand in New York City. “It took a year, but we did it,” said Bobby.

    Gary, Tasso and Bobby are passionate about their restaurant.

    First off Elounda is very centrally located on Cote Vertu and Marcel Laurin. There is plenty of free parking in the lot and even a handicapped accessible ramp for people who cannot handle the stairs. The restaurant can seat 130 diners and it is always recommended to make reservations.

    While Tasso oversees the kitchen, Gary and Bobby are front and center in the dining room. Not only do they make the rounds at each table, some customers get the added bonus of one of them not only taking their order – but making recommendations. We were fortunate to have Bobby to assist us and he guided us brilliantly.

    To get things started, Bobby opened a fine bottle of Biblia Chora Ovilos white wine direct from Macedonia, Greece. As we made a toast to a good summer, Bobby returned again with a large Greek salad which contained some of the most delicious tomatoes and feta cheese I have tasted in a long time. The olive oil, Bobby told us, comes from a group of Olive trees from property he owns in Greece. “I have someone place it in tins and ship them to me in Montreal,” he said.

    Next coming our way was an order of eggplant and zucchini chips with tzatziki and saganaki. They were crispy and very addictive. As for the saganaki, this pan-seared Greek cheese was absolutely superb.

    Now from my last time at Elounda, I vividly remembered the octopus. My late dad was with me. He did not like seafood and for certain had never tried octopus. When it arrived at the table cut into small pieces, he grabbed his fork and gave it a try. “This is the sweetest tasting chicken I ever had,” he said with a big smile. When I told him what he had just consumed he could not believe it, yet kept eating.

    We made sure to order an appetizer size of grilled octopus and it was better than I could have possibly remembered, cutting like butter. Tasso’s recipe is simple. He pre-cooks the octopus in the oven with some spices. It is then warmed up on the grill, cut into bite-sized pieces and sprinkled with some olive oil, a touch of lemon juice and even some red wine and vinegar.

    The hot appetizers kept coming. This time it was some grilled calamari on a bed of spinach. This also went over very well with our party.

    There is no shortage of fish to choose from here: Greek Porgy, Black Sea Bass, Greek Red Snapper, Pompano, Mediterranean Sea Bass, Mediterranean Porgy, Red Alaskan King Crab, Salmon, Swordish and Sesame Tuna “Sushi.” One item that is not on the menu, yet remains a house specialty is the Sea Bream and on this night it was available. Tasso proudly told me later that he has it flown in from Greece once or twice a week. There were no bones. It was light and we could quickly see why it is considered among the best of any white-meat fish.

    We waited anxiously for the main course, some exceptionally prepared sea bream. While we each had one piece, cut nicely for us by Bobby, we also shared a plate of five of the best grilled lamb chops we can remember having in a very long time.

    You can also order shrimp, scampi, lobster, chicken, steak, veal and pasta from the menu if you so desire.

    While every diner gets a complimentary fruit salad at the end of their meal, we went a little beyond that as the description of  the honey balls, chocolate and hazelnut baklava and chocolate mousse cake sounded too delicious to pass on.

    Elounda has a loyal regular clientele and there are always new people discovering this restaurant or returning like me after a lengthy absence. Yet Bobby said he and his partners are not ruling out the possibility of expanding, possibly to Laval and downtown. All they need are the right locations.

    Elounda is located at 1818 Cote Vertu, at the corner of Marcel Laurin. It is open Monday to Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and each night from 5 pm to 11 pm.   The place is also available for family parties or corporate functions. For reservations call 514-331-4040. You can log on to www.eloundarestaurant.com to view the full menu.

    Mike Cohen

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