Last Friday, I had the pleasure of eating at Ikanos as one of their restaurant guests. Ikanos is a beautiful Greek restaurant located in the heart of downtown Montreal, serving delicious Greek mezzes (sharing plates), fresh fish and seafood dishes, as well as various cuts of meat. Perfect for a 5 à 7 with friends or a romantic dinner for two, Ikanos will surely charm you with their modern Greek cuisine and excellent service.
Date: Friday November 17th 2017
Table for: 2
Like many other Montreal establishments, Ikanos’ decor does not disappoint. From your first few steps inside, you are greeted not only by a maitre d’ but also by a vast collection of fish hooks – very fitting and original decoration for a Greek restaurant. A quick walk around the restaurant with this said maitre d’ allows you to discover the secrets behind the decor: the glass balls that serve as lights which hang above the bar represent the starts of the Mediterranean – the huge iron frames scattered throughout the place represent the iron gates which once used to serve as doors for temples in Greece – and the unique wall art in the main dining room, made of layers of different shades of blues and white paint, represent the blue of the Mediterranean. There are also many columns which line the space, very temple-like I tell him, but he tells me that no, those are for structural purposes, ha!
We are shown to a corner table with a banquette side (my favorite) and a chair side, which give me a great view of the main dining room. As the time progresses, the restaurant fills up more and more with both couples and groups of friends. As for the music, it begins lounge-like and by the time we leave (21h30) the music is low-key club-like.
We begin by ordering some cocktails from their very Greek inspired cocktail list (a few questions had to be posed as we’re not very familiar with Greek alcohols). I settle for the Masthia Fizz, made with: tsilili (grape eau de vie, similar to a vodka), skinos (a herb liqueur), honey, lime and pear juice and Alex opts for the Athens Carré, made of: Panthéon 7 (brandy), calijo (apple brandy) and Rouge Gorge rouge (vermouth). I really liked my drink, it was very refreshing and flavourful thanks to the lime juice. Alex also enjoyed his, although it wasn’t my kind of drink, too strong for me.
Once the drinks are ordered, the waiter explains to us how the menu works: typically, people will order 4-6 mezzes (sharing plates, like tapas) per couple, or you can choose just 2-3 for the two, coupled with one main course. Because the mezzes menu looks so yummy, we decide to go with 6 choices. From our selection, the waiter breaks them down into 4 different services: the grilled calamari and trio of sauces to begin the evening, followed by the cavatelli as a solo mezze, then come the scallops and lobster and finally, the saganaki.
As we continue to enjoy our cocktails, the first round of mezzes arrive: grilled calamari and a trio of sauces. After taking numerous photos, I begin with the grilled calamari, which were delicious. They are cooked on the grill just how I like them and served with pickled onions, capers, lemon wedges and lots of olive oil. The calamari taste great, with that grilled taste that I love and surprisingly, they are a bit sweet, which is new and different but still delicious.
After the calamari, I move on to the trio of sauces: tyrokafteri (feta and red peppers), tzatziki (yogurt, garlic and cucumbers) and melitzanosalata (eggplant and chick peas, like a baba ghanoush). The tyrokafteri was my favorite, as I love feta cheese and it blended so well with the red peppers. The texture was both smooth and chunky and oh so delicious. I also enjoyed the tzatziki, because its a sauce I love to eat when I eat Greek food and this one wasn’t overpowering with garlic which was nice; all the flavours were very well balanced. The melitzanosalata, although not one of my favorites, was also very good and very well done (I just prefer creamier and fattier sauces to hummus-like sauces). I liked that they added some hints of cumin to it, which added another dimension of flavour to the sauce and the bits of walnuts added a nice crunch. Let’s not forget the delicious homemade pita breads! So warm, fluffy and delicious. Sprinkled with some black sesame seeds, fennel seeds and olive oils, these went perfectly well with the sauces. They were even so good that we had to order another batch to finish up our sauces!
Our second service was hands down my favorite (I mean, I am a huge pasta fan) : the ricotta cavatelli with Quebec artichokes, parmesan, garlic emulsion, pine nuts and Jerusalem artichoke (a bulbous vegetable that is in the same family as potatoes) chips. This dish contained pretty much all of the ingredients I love most and was so well executed; everything was amazing. The ricotta cavatelli were perfectly done; fluffly, soft and smooth. And the garlic emulsion, which pretty much tasted like a creamy garlic butter sauce, was just delicious, as it wrapped up all of the other ingredients together. I loved all of the different textures and flavours together; the soft and smooth cavatelli, the soft but firm artichoke, the crunchy pine nuts, the crispy chips and of course, the sauce which brought everything nicely together.
The cavatelli was followed by two best sellers at Ikanos: the lobster and the scallops. At this point, our cocktails were finished and we switched over to a glass of sauvignon blanc; my favorite kind of wine. I tasted the lobster first, which was served with: chorizo, fennel and orange ravioli, broth and rouille. For those who don’t know, like me, rouille is a sauce that is often served with fish or seafood dishes, typically in French cuisine. Lobster is my favorite seafood and this dish did not disappoint. I loved the combination of all the ingredients; everything went so well together. The lobster was juicy and fresh, the chorizo added a nice touch of spice, the fennel and orange ravioli were delicious and the lobster broth brought everything together.
Next, I tried the scallops served with: foie gras, celeriac purée, apricots and capers. This too was an excellent dish, very well balanced and full of flavours. The pan-seared scallops on their own were delicious, but combined with all of the other ingredients were even better. The foie gras provided a rich texture with a hint of meat flavour, the celeriac purée was super smooth, the apricots provided a sweet and chewy texture and the capers added a nice touch of saltiness to the whole thing. Overall, another very well executed dish that I wish I could make at home!
Afterwards, the last of our six mezzes arrived: the flambéed saganaki. Our waitress brought over a piece of kefalograviera cheese that was slightly roasted in the oven and served in a cast-iron skillet, poured some ouzo and lit up the dish! I was a bit too fascinated with the fire and my Instagram story video, that I forgot to take an actual photo of the flambéed cheese. The waitress explained to us that the flambéed part is a North American thing, that typically, Greeks in Greece do not serve it like that (when I had some in Santorini it was deep fried). Nonetheless, the saganaki was excellent; like a delicious grilled cheese but without the extra carbs of bread. The top and the bottom formed a thick and crispy layer of cheese, while the inside was super smooth. The ouzo added a nice touch of acidity to the cheese and wasn’t overpowering at all (unless you proceeded to dip your cheese in the remnants of liquid in the skillet). The saganaki was served with a fennel and and dried fruits compote, which also balanced the cheese very well and added a nice touch of sweetness and freshness. We were recommend to eat the saganaki with bread as well, which at this point, basically made it a grilled cheese.
Finally, it was time for dessert, although we didn’t have much room left. But, I think its a shame to not try at least one dessert, right? We opted for some mint tea to help with our digestion first and then received the delicious loukoumades, which are like Greek Timbits except way better. Loukoumades are nice and crispy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside. Ikanos serves theirs with: honey, panna cotta, oranges and spiced nuts. Once again, pretty much the theme of the evening, all of the flavours went very well together. The honey added a touch of sweetness, the panna cotta a touch of creaminess, the oranges a nice zesty kick and the spiced nuts and oatmeal mix some crunchiness.
Overall, we had an amazing culinary experience with dishes full of thought and flavours and beautifully presented. Every dish was composed of multiple ingredients which I never would have thought of putting together, but Ikanos prepares everything so well that it all comes together in wonderful and delectable dishes. I also enjoyed the service which was very attentive; our cutlery and dishes were changed after each service. As well, the waitress who served the majority of our dishes was very nice and explained very well everything that we ate and the composition of every dish. I highly recommend Ikanos to any Greek food lovers out there, looking for something better than a Marathon souvlaki kind of experience. Ikanos prepares amazing modern Greek dishes, full of different flavours and freshness. Opa!
UP NEXT: ma critique en tant qu’invité au restaurant Quindici ! (Restaurant italien dans la Petite Italie)
*This restaurant post does not contain my usual restaurant review criteria of restaurants, as this is a sponsored post where I was invited to the restaurant as a guest.
*All photos are mine