Hicks Weekly Dish: You can count on Koutouki - originally published Edmonton Sun, Oct. 9, 2013
Koutouki on 124th Street
780 452 5383
Food: 4 of 5 stars
Ambience: 3.5 of 5 stars
Service: 4 of 5 stars
Dinner for two (excluding beverages and tip): Mezethes style, $50; full meal deal, $90
Koutouki on 124 Street is more-or-less Edmonton’s original Koutouki Taverna.
Koutouki patriarch Yianni Psalios had opened, sold or closed a bunch of other Greek restaurants before settling on the name and a location that’s now owned and operated by his daughter and son-in-law Dina and Chris St. Denis.
The very first Koutouki was actually across the street, a tiny restaurant sandwiched in beside the Roxy Theatre. Since the original, six Koutoukis have come and gone. “You know how it goes,” Yianni once said, “When the economy is growing, I open restaurants. When the economy shrinks, I close.”
While the ever-restless Yianni opens and closes (his latest, Yianni’s Backyard at 5524 Calgary Trail, has just opened) Dina and Chris have made the “original” Koutouki a fixture of the 124 Street dining scene.
Three aspects of Psalios-family restaurants are constants: The Greek food is always delicious, the décor deceives you into thinking you always are in sunny Greece, and guests are family.
Koutouki 124th Street has expanded its “Mezethes” (roughly translated: Small plates of tasty morsels) menu selections. Instead of facing an insanely large souvlaki, lamb or moussaka entrée, a party can order several mezethes dishes for each member to try according to individual appetite and, dare one say it, restraint.
Our party of six opted for the full mezethes, small sharing plates of Pikilia (pita with dips), Saganaki (pan-fried Greek cheese), Sikotakia (chicken livers in wine), Greek roast potatoes, Kota (chicken) and succulent pork tenderloin slices.
For dessert, Bougatsa — a sweet citrus custard wrapped in toasted filo pastry. Ease a notch off the belt, there Hubert!
Dining has so much to do with ambience. As we worked our way through the mezethes menu, the restaurant filled, the music went up a touch, energy levels were rising. Even the vines festooning Koutouki’s walls and ceiling seemed to perk up.
The pita was hot and gently steaming, its dips an intriguing variety of yoghurt and cucumber, chickpea and garlic, jalapeno peppers and cheese. A less familiar dip was entirely olive — a crushed olive base in which were mixed small olive chunks and a magnificent hit of fresh garlic.
The Saganaki, made with that unpronounceable Greek cheese with a rubbery quality, arrived beautifully hot and sizzling from its trip through the frying pan. Chef Chris, urged in improvise, added wild boar bacon and tomato sauce. Delicious!
The fresh Sikotakia (multiple chicken livers sautéed in butter, oregano and lemon, finished with red wine) were light, free of the connective tissue that too often spoils organ meats. A sprinkling of lemon and red wine transformed these giblets into delicacies.
As traditional as Saganaki, Koutouki’s Greek style potatoes remain impossible to replicate – peeled potato halves doused in butter and lemon, with a consistency close to tofu yet keeping their shape. The taste and texture is the result of two hours of wet, then dry, oven roasting.
Our main meze-style meats – seared chicken breasts and sliced pork overtop of root veggies — were magnificent. The chicken carried the lingering taste of the grill, soaked in herbs and lemon. The succulent pork was garnished with a tangy lemon and tomato sauce.
The Bougatsa – lemon custard baked inside filo pastry — was something different, an admirable sweet to end the evening.
For a party of two, four or five mezethes plates make up a satisfying, light and inexpensive dinner. If you over-order, take the mezethes dishes home for tomorrow’s lunch break.
There’s no getting around it in this town. The Koutouki brand, coupled with the Psalios family, is a near guarantee of fabulous Greek cooking.
780 707 6379
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A short restaurant history of Koutouki and the Psalios family.
1982 - Yiannis Taverna, Lendrum Plaza
1983 - Theo’s, Whyte Avenue
1984 - Yianni’s Taverna - Whyte Avenue
1985 - sold Theo’s
1989 - sold Yianni’s - moved back to Cyprus
1990 – moved back to Canada, helped father-in-law at Spartacus and Kypros Tavern
1991 - Theo’s on 124 St. (now Cosmos)
1995 - Koutouki on 124 St. – beside Theatre Network, tiny
2004 - Koutouki Ouzouri - west end
2005 - move Koutouki on 124 St. across the street
2006 - Koutouki Saskatoon (sold)
2005-2006 – Psalios family and Koutouki featured in TV reality show The Family Restaurant
2006 - Koutouki Leduc (sold)
2008 - Koutouki Taverna South
2010 - close Koutouki Ouzeri
2011 – sold Koutouki Taverna South
2010 - Koutouki Mediterrania - merged into Koutouki
2011 - Meze by Koutouki in College Plaza
2012 – Little Village food truck
2013 - close Mezze by Koutouki
2013 - open Yianni’s Backyard