I was excited to visit this place when I was in Montreal recently. Estiatorios Milos - or mostly known as just Milos - is a place that some of my colleagues have visited in the past but I've never had the chance to go. So when I was told we were going to eat at Milos one evening during our company meeting in Montreal, I immediately said, "Yes!"
Estiatorios Milos is the flagship restaurant of Costas Spiliadis' restaurant empire that stretches from Montreal to New York to Athens. Spiliadis, a Greek immigrant, came to New York as a 19 year old student. After school, he moved to Montreal and opened a night club. In 1980, he changed the night club into a Greek restaurant that served only the freshest fish available.
One story about Spiliadis during his early days of running Milos - he would only buy fresh and good looking fish - something that wasn't readily available in Montreal at the time. Spiliadis would drive to New York City and shop at the Fulton Fish Market three times a week. He brought the fish back with him to Montreal and waited for the customers to show up. They didn't. Spiliadis wouldn't freeze the fish - he knew freezing the fish would compromise the taste - so he ended up giving the fish away to the stray cats hanging around outside in the alley.
But people eventually came and Milos thrived. Eventually, Spiliadis would have fresh fish flown in almost every day from Greece, caught by family fishermen - on hooks, not caught in nets to cut down on wasting fish - that he befriended over the years. He also has a number of fresh North Atlantic seafood to offer, as well. Spiliadis eventually opened a Milos on 55th St. in New York and a Milos in his home country of Greece.
Estiatorios Milos is located on avenue du Parc in central Montreal (see map). It's an area of Montreal where a lot of immigrants from all over the world end up living and there's a large number of ethnic restaurants in the area. Milos is housed in a non-descript building that has sort of a contemporary industrial look on the facade. 10 of us, including my colleagues and the husband and wife team that heads up Siltech and Crystal cables from The Netherlands, descended upon Milos one cool Montreal evening.
We took a table toward the back of the restaurant where an ice shelf filled with fresh seafood showed what we could get that evening. While the menu features a number of fresh seafood entrees, they also feature prix fixe courses for dinner, along with a family style offering of whole fish that is basted in olive oil pressed from olives grown on Spiliadis' family estate in Greece, then lightly grilled. My boss made the decision to do just that for our main course that evening. He ordered the grilled red snapper and the grilled sea bass.
Milos offers a wide variety of Greek wines on their wine list. They also feature some interesting wines from France, Italy and a smattering of California wines, as well. Milos has been lauded by a number of wine magazines as having one of the best selections of wine in Montreal. Spiliadis also owns Cava Spiliadis, a noted wine store that imports and sells Greek wines. Since we were going to be eating seafood that evening, my boss ordered up bottles of the 2007 Tsaktsarlis Domaine Bibila Chora, a Greek chardonnay that was light, but flavorful with the seafood.
We also ordered a large round of appetizers before the main entree was brought to the table. The first thing to come out were a couple plates of pan-fried zucchini and pan-fried egg plant with pan-fried Saganaki cheese wedges and sides of tzatziki - the Greek cucumber sauce that is more known to go with gyros. The cheese, I understand, comes from farms about 45 miles to the west of Montreal and it was excellent. We had three plates of that for the whole table and, quite honestly, I was sorry to take my last bite when it was gone. The Saganaki cheese was just great.
Our next round of appetizers consisted of fried calimari served with a zesty tomato creme sauce. The calimari was absolutely wonderful - lightly breaded and lightly fried with a wonderful batter coating the outside. The tomato creme sauce gave the calimari a little more spark to the taste.
Not stopping with just two appetizers (I love it when we go out to eat as a company - we're all "foodies" in our group), we had a couple heaping plates of grilled octopus. Now, I'm not big on octopus, but Milos' octopus is flown in from Greece, caught in the waters off Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. My colleague, Todd, coaxed me to have a bite of the octopus appetizers and I was pleasantly surprised with the taste. The octopus is served cut into bite sized pieces on the large plate and it didn't taste like any octopus I've had before. It had a sort of smokey, grilled taste to it that wasn't overpowering and rather pleasant. It was hell to look at, but it was wonderful to eat.
It wasn't long after we finished off the octopus platters that our fish showed up at the table. Here's a picture of the presentation. The red snapper is at the top, the sea bass below. Some of the more adventurous members of our party fought over the cheek of the fish - supposedly a delicacy in some countries. I was happy with just trying some of the flaky filets they cut up and served with olive oil.
The sea bass was very good. It was grilled perfectly, it wasn't fishy tasting at all, it was light and flavorful. The red snapper, however, was disappointing. It was over-cooked and somewhat chewy. I didn't care for the red snapper as much as I liked the sea bass. Everyone agreed the snapper was over-cooked. Given that my last two or three experiences with red snapper have not been favorable, I will probably never order it again if it's offered on a menu.
Of course, after dinner we had to have dessert. Milos' dessert menu features a number of traditional Greek desserts, as well as fresh fruit, a Key Lime tart and cheesecake. One thing they have are Loukoumades - basically Greek beignets that are deep-fried and then sprinkled with cinnamon and chopped almonds along with a thyme-honey concoction that you can drizzle on top. Although I wasn't all that hungry after dinner, we ordered up a little bit of everything including the Loukoumades, the Key Lime tart and we couldn't pass up Milos' own homemade Baklava. I'm a sucker for good Baklava.
And I wasn't disappointed in the least with any of the desserts. We shared a little bit of everything at the table. The Loukoumades were surprisingly good. They had a wonderful sweet cinnamon taste to them. I don't usually care much for almonds, but the nut taste was subdued. The Key Lime tart was OK - sort of a fluffy Key Lime pie, mainly. But the Baklava was some of the best I'd ever had. Light and flaky, the homemade Baklava was just out of this world. By the time the last Baklava was eaten, I was stuffed. But I seriously considered ordering up another batch just to take back to the hotel with us.
Other than the over-cooked red snapper, Milos lived up to my lofty expectations. My colleagues had talked in glowing terms about the food at Milos and, overall, it didn't disappoint. I can easily see why Milos is one of the top international restaurants in Montreal and why it has spawned a number of imitators over the years.