Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mamakas: Authentic Greek Taverna Fare on Ossington

Bringing a fresh, new sophisticated approach to Aegean cuisine in Toronto is Mamakas, one of the most delightful and charming restaurants to hit the Ossington restaurant scene this summer. A term of endearment for 'mama', Mamakas serves traditional mezze and grilled meats inspired by the authentic coastal Greek and Turkish cuisine that owner Thanos Vrettakos Tripi grew up with at home, including flaky spanakopita and whipped taramosalata topped with salmon roe. In fact, Tripi’s entire menu is a reflection of his mother's recipes. Although Tripi acquired the Osssington property almost two years ago, it wasn’t until this year that construction actually began with the help of interior designer Anwar Mekhayech, who helped him convert the small space into a warm and inviting 85-seat taverna with open-concept kitchen and 8-seater bar of white marble dubbed the kitchen counter. A wall of windows give the narrow, whitewashed room a bright sunny feel, strings of bare bulbs blanket the ceiling like stars and a long back-lit mural of 'karagiozis', traditional Greek shadow puppets dressed up in ballerina tutus and chef hats, add a touch of whimsy. Typically the taverna is full to bursting every night with a loud and spirited young crowd that makes the Mamakas experience fun and lively, but not the place to engage in quiet conversation — better to just throw up your arms and join in the spontaneous rounds of clapping to music from Zorba the Greek. Opa!

Mamakas owner Thanos Tripi graciously agrees to pose for me in front of his restaurant last night

The menu, made up of mostly Greek ingredients, opens with mezzo which are meant to be ordered a few at a time and shared around the table. Fish is ordered daily and subject to change even more frequently than chefs Pierre Restivo and Seb Yacoubidian's Medditerranean-inspired menu, which features classic dishes such as Imam Baildi with eggplant, tomato confit, caramelized onion, fresh thyme, Larvaki Carpaccio, a Mediterranean sea bass with shaved fennel, pomegranate seeds, parsley mint oil and kataifi, and Karpouzi Salad with watermelon, Dodonis feta, fresh mint and crumbled pistachio, as well as Whole Grilled Fish brushed with latholemono, a classic Greek blend of lemon, olive oil and garlic, and grilled over a hot flame, and Padiakia, lamb-chops served a wooden board flavoured with oregano and served with garlicky tzatziki. With bright, delicate and deliciously authentic flavours like this, it's a wonder Thanos ever left his mother's side, but we're ever so thankful he did.

The bustling interior of Mamakas on a Tuesday night

Mamakas Chef Pierre Restivo 

The seasonally changing menu features a delicious selection of mezzo, grilled dishes, 
sides and sweets

Our lovely server recommended a selection of Greek white and red wines to enjoy during our meal, including a white 2012 Gerovassiliou Assyrtiko and 2010 Kir Yianni Estate Merlot

Light, dry and delightfully rich wine was delicious on its own 
as well as pairing nicely with our selection of Greek mezzo

The long back-lit mural of 'karagiozis', 
traditional Greek shadow puppets dressed up in ballerina tutus and chef hats

Horiatiki Salad with Ontario hot house tomatoes, Dodonis feta, cucumber and shallots

Platters or fresh warm pita brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and garnished with fresh oregano

Taramosalata, a thick, creamy, sharp flavour Greek dip made fish roe, olive oil, 
bread and fresh lemon juice

Melitzanosalata, a traditional dip mage with eggplant, olive oil and lemon juice 
and similar to baba ghanoush


Kopanisti, a whipped feta and roast red pepper dip served with pita

Batzaria and Skordilia: Beets and garlic-potato spread with olive oil and Greek sea salt

Shrimp Saganaki with jumbo prawns, house tomato sauce, Dodonai feta and grilled bread

Kotopoulo: Organic free range chicken with latholemono and roasted garlic yogurt

Saganaki: Kefalotiri with thyme honey drizzle

Kalamakia: Ontario lamb on fresh baked pita with cherry tomatoes, tzatziki, fresh mint, 
french shallots and olive oil

Patates Tiganites: Hand cut fries topped with kafalotiri, oregano, rosemary and garlic aioli

Whole Grilled Sea Bass with a bowl of latholemono

Octopus with summer sweet pea salsa, olive oil and flour de sel

Horta: Baby organic dandelion salad

Imam Baildi: eggplant, tomato confit, caramelized onion and fresh thyme with a slice of grilled bread

Feta Cheesecake topped with fig, caramel sauce and fresh mint

As a final flourish we ordered a small bottle of ouzo, which served over ice, 
was a grand finale to a wonderful evening...Opa!

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