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OPA sizzles! Greek restaurant diversifies Kingston

Published:Thursday | December 19, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Chef Ioannis Tompas with Kotsi, which is slow-baked lamb shank infused with lemon, olive oil and garlic marinade.
The scrumptious mousaka for persons with a small stomach.
Just as flavourful but a more filling version of the tasty mousaka.
Inside the exquisite Greek restaurant, Opa! - Gladstone Taylor/Photographer
Opa! has a bust of the Greek god of music, Apollo.
A few of the Greek elements that can be seen around the restaurant.
The exquisite Greek wine Tsantalis Agioritiko in assorted flavours, red, rose and white, respectively. Opa! has a wide variety of wines from across the world, including a bottle of 1986 Chateau Laffite Rothschild Bordeaux which cost $319,600.
Owner of Opa, Alexx Antaeus, demonstrating the correct way to break a plate.
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Jody-Anne Lawrence, Gleaner Writer

"OPA!" Have a celebration of life when you go for an authentic Greek dinner. Turning off Hope Road into the parking lot of the pure white building, there is not a hint of what awaits inside.

What that turned out to be when we visited the newly opened Greek restaurant Opa! last week was a homely, relaxing, yet exotic, and artistic atmosphere.

As we chatted with owner Alexx Antaeus and Director of Operations Orlease King, it struck us how the two mirrored the merger of cultures - Antaeus, Greek, and King, Jamaican, working together to make this successful.

In response to the the name choice, Antaeus shouted, "Opa! What else could we call it?" he asked rhetorically. The meaning of Opa is explained on every place mat - the Greek exclamation of celebration, the celebration of life itself. "It is a way of expressing joy and gratitude," he ended.

The ambience lets you feel like you are home, and after King, Antaeus and chef Ioannis Tompas are through getting you settled in, you will feel like family.

The restaurant came out of the realisation that there were no Greek restaurants in Kingston and not enough eateries where you can enjoy a complete meal until midnight.

TRADITIONAL FEAST

Seeing that we are in the Christmas season, they decided to do a traditional Greek feast for us. Antaeus explains that, in Greece, not as much emphasis is placed on Christmas as they do for Easter.

"There is the mousaka - we eat it during Christmas and Easter," he said. It is made from eggplant, lean ground beef and béchamel sauce.

There are two versions to the dish, based on an individual's preference. "That's the light one; there is another for persons with a hefty appetite like me," Antaeus told Food.

The next dish was the Kotsi. It is a dish that will have you salivating on sight. The aroma alone will have your palate in a tailspin. The Kotsi is slow-baked lamb shank infused with lemon, olive oil and garlic marinade. This dish is only eaten in Greece during the Yuletide season.

"We slow-cook it [Kotsi] in the oven for five hours until it's so soft that the meat is almost falling off the bones," Antaeus explains.

For dessert, Antaeus presented their Kourabies. This is a Greek cookie that will appeal to your sweet tooth.

Now the celebration at Opa would not be complete if not done the Greek way. That means breaking some plates. For the Greeks, plates are broken to celebrate life, birthdays, anniversaries or any occasion. But you don't just throw the plate on the ground. I learnt that there is an art to breaking dishes.

"You have to turn and toss the plate upside down. This will keep the splinters from flying upwards, which keeps everyone safe, and it makes more noise," Antaeus notes with a playful, childlike smile on his face.

He then tossed a few plates to demonstrate exactly how it is done, shouting each time, "Opa!"

On any given night you could be allowed to do just that. Antaeus notes that this was dependent on the mood.

Opa is located at 75 Hope Road, Kingston 6.

Jody-anne.lawrence@gleanerjm.com