Friday, January 22, 2016

Blu Kouzina: Greek Cuisine on St Armands Circle

One of the newest restaurants on St Armands Circle is Blu Kouzina, a lovely Greek taverna run by owners Chef Effie and Denise Tsakris, that was born out of the founders' love of sharing a hearty meal with friends, spiced with quality olive oil and accompanied with good wine. The Tskarises are of Greek descent, but were born and grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and then moved to Singapore where the couple ran a very successful restaurant also called Blu Kouzina. The couple wasn’t looking to own a restaurant in Florida, but one day, when Effie and her mother saw an empty space on St. Armands Circle, she thought it would be nice to open a place here, so in March 2015, Effie and Dennis opened Blu Kouzina, bringing their signature, wholesome Greek cooking to the Sunshine State. 

Fresh quality ingredients, mostly grown organically, and sourced from well established, local producers are used in dishes that are both traditional and creatively contemporary with uniquely Greek flavours with ingredients like dried oregano, seafood and wine that are especially flown from Greece, including the family's own olive oil, which comes from their own trees that are more than 500 years old. The interior, drawn from the traditional blue and white palette of a beach taverna, is detailed with whitewashed furniture, nautical accents and beautiful honey-coloured stone tile flooring. Blu Kouzina serves traditional and modern Greek recipes with the freshest of ingredients, such as Moussaka, homemade Baklava and lighter tapas-style dishes like the roasted red peppers stuffed with tangy, melty, spicy feta cheese to fresh grilled Greek sardines and octopus. By marrying their passion for the food of their native Greece, their warm welcoming hospitality and personalized service, Blu Kouzina is like a bold breeze off the Aegean Sea — a little gem on Sarasotas's culinary scene.

The bright and welcoming blue and white Greek taverna-style interior of Blu Kouzina

Owner Effie Tsakiris in Blu Zouzina's bustling open kitchen

Dennis and Effie Tskaris, owners of Blu Kouzina with their sons Constandino and Marko 
(Photo © Dale Ann Clancy)

Napkins bound with twine reflects the restaurants attention to every small detail

The Mediterranean themed menu features many Greek favourites from Spanokopita to Saganaki

A wood bowl with warm fresh baked bread brushed with olive oil harvested from owners private olive grove estate in Greece  

Organic Greek sea salt from the Mani peninsula 

'Kolokithokeftedes' - Zucchini patties mixed with herbs, extra virgin olive oil, feta cheese and garnished with dill, served with a small bowl of tzatziki

Crisp, moist and bursting with flavour, a dollop of tzatziki was the perfect partner to this light and delicious meze

 'Saganaki with Figs' - Kefalotiri Psito with fresh fig sauce

Grilled pita bread with sea salt and paprika

Water served in a tinned lined woven basket

Glass of bright and refreshing Greek Skouras Moschofilero from the Peloponnese Peninsula

Gaia Agiorgitiko Estate Red is a fragrant red-wine grape native to Greece's Peloponnese peninsula

'Kotopoulo Yiro' - Grilled Chicken Skewers served on pita bread with fresh tomatoes, onion, tzatziki and red paprika with a side portion of Patates Tiganites

'Xtapodi Shara' - Grilled octopus with lemon and extra virgin olive oil served with arugula and caper berries

'Sardeles Shara' - Grilled sardines with lemon and extra virgin olive oil, 
made with fresh sardines imported from Greece