I was fortunate enough to dine once again at the Mount Olympus of seafood, Milos Estiatorio. I am elated to report that, “Yes. The best can get even better”. Most restaurants peak at a certain point and then ride their notoriety the rest of the way. One can spend years eating at a restaurant trying to relive better meals of yesterdays gone bye. Waning in quality and effort, the country is chock full of eateries that just can’t keep it up. I can’t blame them, it’s hard enough to catch lighting in a bottle in the first place. However, after eating at Milo’s the other day, its still an other worldly experience.
Let me say part of the amplified experience is the shot to the heart and the wallet at the conclusion of the meal. Many diners complain about the high price per pound seafood, but my philosophy has always been – go big or go home. This is serious seafood and it packs a serious cost. However, I can promise the price, though steep, is worth it for any lover of truly exquisite seafood prepared as only nature would have intended.
To start, the service was impeccable and throughly warm and inviting. I was pleased to see that bread plates are now part of the experience. I remember on one of my first outings to Milos that I felt very uncomfortable putting my crispy toasted bread on the clean white linens… I guess I was intimidated. The Greek and modern angles only enhance the view of seafood as it gleams on mountains of sparkling ice. St. Pierre, Dorado, Langoustine, Scallops, White Shrimp…. and my personal favorite Langouste (a rock lobster from the Mediterranean Sea) … all on display like edible jewels. Seafood market meets fine dining… the brilliance of form and function.
The line up was something of a star studded boxing event. First up, grilled octopus with shaved onions & white jumbo prawns…. Second course, fresh european sea scallops in shell, poached in their own juices & Langoustine split grilled with herbs and olive oil… Third course, “King of the Sea” langouste with grilled vegetables and gouda cheese, The fourth and finale course, grilled dorado and lamb chops served with french fries.
The story goes like this. The octopus from Milos used to be amazing, the best I ever had… but then they started offering it on the price fixed meal. What happened next was a tragedy of greek proportions (get it…) they batch automated the octopus. It used to be plump, large cut, cripsy and out of this world, now it’s limp, sliced thin, and marinated too long. It’s still delicious just not what it used to be… Next time (when I come back after hitting the lottery) I am going to request they grill the octopus to order. Although off to a shaky start, the white shrimp rode in to save the day. These are without question some of the best shrimp I have ever eaten. That’s quite a compliment coming from a man whose favorite protein is shrimp. The only thing that could be in contention with this shrimp is the fine prawns of yesteryear from the Tempura bar at Nippon. The shrimp’s quality, sweetness, texture and preparation cannot be denied. Grilled perfectly to the point that they are juicy yet have the snap that a great shrimp exemplifies. The meal was back on track and speeding out the gate.
The second course, was exciting as I had never had the sea scallops in the shell from Milos before. Something new is always a risk. Here the risk was barely satisfying. The scallops had great notes of the sea, but was a bit boiled and not deliberate in its execution. In hindsight I would have gone with the regular sea scallops on the grill… but there is no reward without risk. The langoustine, which I have had before at Milo’s, came out swinging. If you know langoustine they are incredibly sweet but like crawfish they tend to be a bit soft in texture unless incredibly fresh and even then its very rare as the meat is so delicate. These langoustine were firm and sweet as candy…. It transported me back to the shores of Deauville in France as a young boy. Pulling the sweet tail meat from the shell and dipping them in a delicate mayonnaise…. but those were never this firm or prepared with such care. Again… a dip and then a surge. This meal was turning into a prize fight. The tide turning in and out but all with an exhiliration of what was to come. I am happy to report though, after course 2 it was as K.O. all the way.
The third course came in with resounding precence. The langouste was grilled to perfection. It came to the table like a masterpiece, simple and confident. Now let me say as strong as my attention was fixed on the langouste, the grilled vegetables at Milos’ are second to none. The masters of the grill take the same approach to zucchini, eggplant, and peppers as chinese chefs do to broccoli in hot wok cooking. Let me explain. You ever wonder how chinese take out restaurants get the broccoli so crispy to the bite but cooked all the way through. The broccoli is not raw inside just taken to the edge of cooked, never mushy (unless you let it sit in the box while you get it home). Its because the wok is so crazy hot that it can sear the vegetable and then cook it before it has time to turn to mush. Trust me I have tried to replicate the process in a home kitchen… near impossible. Well getting back to Milos, thats what they do with their vegetables, but with a grill. The thick cut zucchini is not shriveled up or over cooked, perfect grill marks but cooked just right. My wife said perhaps they par boil the vegetables first. This is a theory I will look into, but whatever they’re doing they can keep on doing it cause its working. Now for the langouste, what can I say… gold bullion through and through. No question the best lobster ever…. the succulent tender meat of langoustine on steroids… the sweet taste of a young Maine lobster if you spliced its’ DNA with butter. A rare glimpse behind the curtain into the heaven that awaits us in the after life. Lobster nirvana achieved. As we consumed the last bites of the the stellar grilled vegetables and the decadent Mediterranean lobster a sublime state of grace washes over the table. Case closed, or was it.
After tasting the best can it get even better? … What could the last course hope to accomplish? The Dorado was perfect, looked perfect, tasted great, delicately seasoned – a masterpiece of traditional greek fare… coasting down from the langouste high the fish was deliciously uneventful. I then took a bite of the lamb. Let me explain… we got the lamb to try something new. We never order meat a Milo’s, cause why would you? Being that I have eaten here 5 times before, we agreed to try the lamb, widen our horizons – what did we have to lose. You may know that I love lamb, it could be my second favorite protein of all time. It’s a toss up for my favorite piece of meat, Luger’s Porterhouse Steak or Keen’s Mutton Chop. So now you understand my high standards for lamb. Now I will tell you that these lamb chops were, bar none, the best ones I have ever tasted. Perfectly trimmed, perfectly seasoned and grilled to utter perfection. One bite was like filet mignon with the depth of taste which can only be lamb. Not too strong like Mutton (though there’s nuttin’ like mutton) but not tasteless like some cuts. I could not believe that these masters of seafood took so much care and could execute lamb chops like this. How dare they be masters of so many things!
I was utterly spent and my wife also was beyond impressed. Know that we have had a bad meal at Milo’s, but not the NYC location. In montreal we tried their original location. I won’t go into how disappointing it was, but it just shows America is where it’s at… just kidding, actually Quebec has consistently some of the best food I have had on a trip. Just wanted to show that when it comes to Milo’s I can have some perspective. That night though NYC branch proved their metal with unwavering skill and talent.
So what have we learned? That a restaurant that masters great food can continue to master great food year after year. That if you want the best octopus you have to ask for it specifically – made to order. That with great food (or the best food) comes great and sometimes outrageous prices. I feel that in life every now and then its worth it to go a little food crazy, especially if you find some money on the sidewalk. Who am I kidding I always go crazy for food. So next time your taking in a movie at the Ziegfeld or at a broadway play and your feeling like visiting Neptune’s favored chefs, head over to Milo’s and enjoy one of life few truly epic meals.