After a Herculean effort, Aegean Mediterranean Grille has opened—again. Let's hope that unlike Sisyphus, they only have to push the rock up this particular hill once.
John Koubis and John Sipsis first opened the Aegean on April 3, 2011. A few weeks later, their dream was destroyed. The wicked spring storms that devastated much of the city completely ruined the interior of the restaurant they had just redone. Koubis says, "We re-did it, and then we had to completely re-do it. But we did it."
During the five-month period Koubis and Sipsis spent repairing the damage, they must also have consulted the Oracle at Delphi—and the Oracle said, "Go Greek." Or maybe they just listened to their newly hired chef, George Kastanias, who developed the new menu.
"This is authentic Greek food, the way my grandmother and mother cooked," Kastanias says. During the brief period that the restaurant was open before the storms, Koubis did a lot of listening and looked at what people ordered. "They wanted Greek items," he says. "They wanted authentic Greek food."
Greek favorites such as pastitsio and moussaka joined the menu along with fish, beef, vegetables, and chicken cooked Greek style, using traditional methods of preparation and ingredients. Lemon juice and oregano perk up many dishes. Hummus and house-baked bread are served with every meal at dinner time.
Chicken Aegean, chicken breast and roasted peppers with artichoke hearts, is popular, as is the three-cheese penne pasta with feta, Parmesan, and provolone. For starters try the spanakopita, which is made using Kastanias' mother's recipe complete with her special secret ingredient, or the tyrokeftedes, amazingly good cheese croquettes. The menu also lists basics such as ribeye steak, grilled tilapia, and shrimp stuffed with crabmeat. Vegetarian items include falafel and vegetable kabobs.
The most surprising find is the Greek wine, a local rarity. Koubis' Byzantine quest led him to various distributors and ultimately to 10 reasonably priced Greek wines. "It took me four months to get the wines I wanted," Koubis says. They also have ouzo and a monthly cocktail menu. This month's favorite martini features pomegranate juice, designed to keep the god of the underworld at bay while Persephone, the goddess of vegetation, is at play.
The menu is broad, but they're also willing to go off menu. Kastanias says, "If there's a Greek dish you want, tell me. I'll cook it for you."
Aegean Mediterranean Grille (4861 Kingston Pike, 951-1093)
Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Lamb Chop Kabob: The lamb is marinated 24 hours in olive oil imported from Greece, along with fresh garlic, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. A little lemon juice adds some zing. After they are grilled, the lamb chops are served upright, poised to be eaten, over a colorful mix of seasonal vegetables.
Branzino: Not many places in town serve whole fish. The fish is imported from the Adriatic Sea and prepared picatta style, using a lot of capers and lemons. The mild sauce is drizzled onto a bed of zucchini, carrots, squash, broccoli, and red peppers. The roasted lemon potatoes alone make this a dish worth ordering.
Seafood Pasta: Diving into this bowl is a delight. Beneath the linguini is a slightly spicy homemade marinara sauce with chunks of vegetables. The shrimp, mussels, and oysters are the ultimate topper.