The world-renowned Mediterranean-inspired seafood restaurant, Estiatorio Milos, founded by chef/owner Costas Spiliadis, was the 2017 winner of The Concierge Choice Awards’ International Cuisine category earlier this year.
The New York City location, celebrating its 20th anniversary on 55th Street this year, brings ingredients of the highest quality and traditional preparations from the Mediterranean to guests in a fresh environment with design nods to its Greek heritage. Estiatorio Milos, which will soon debut a renovated dining room and new subterranean private dining space, welcomes guests into the restaurant like they would into their home, sharing the Greek traditions and customs from Spiliadis’s childhood.
Total Food Service recently sat down with Chef Costas to learn more about his career, the concept behind Estiatortio Milos, and winning the 2017 Concierge Choice Awards – honoring the best in New York City hospitality
Please describe your background.
I was born in Patras, a fishing port of Peloponnesus Greece. I came to New York in 1966 with a student visa from New York University. Continued studies in Sociology at University of Maryland and Sir George Williams University in Montreal Canada.
I was involved in community work and worked for 5 years as a program director at a community radio station, Radio Centreville, in Montreal. In 1979, I opened my first Estiatorio Milos in Montreal in an effort to present North Americans another approach to Greek food and dining, different from the typical souvlaki and moussaka version that people were accustomed to.
What is the concept behind Estiatorio Milos? How did you develop it and how has it evolved?
With Milos, I tried to go beyond just another restaurant concept and, instead, present a whole new (for North America) culture about food. A culture which I grew up with in my home. My mother, a Greek, born and raised in Istanbul, brought a strong culture and a cosmopolitan appreciation of food when coming to Greece. These memories of food at home constituted the foundation of the cuisine, which I created at Milos. Greece is blessed with thousands of islands and amazing fish and seafood. And so is the whole Mediterranean. It was therefore, only natural to me, to focus on these ingredients and build a cuisine around the treasures of the sea. On the other hand, the pristine quality and freshness of these ingredients dictated the method of cooking. Simple but not simplistic. Exact and minimum manipulation of ingredients. Minimum intervention. As one of my chefs in Milos Athens once said, “here at Milos cooking is “prohibited”. We drive our need for creativity in our walks through the forests and mountains and our fishing expeditions in an effort to always find new and precious ingredients. Our food is always young, always evolving as we always discover new products, new farmers, new fishermen. It is our constant interaction with nature and its offerings that finds itself every day in our fish markets in our restaurants. It is there, where we invite our guests to come and make together their menu for the night.
Please describe the dining room renovations and the new subterranean private dining space. What inspired these plans and how did these ideas come to fruition?
With my initial 20-year lease of Milos New York coming to maturity in July 2017, the renewal of this space was a major concern for me over the last few years. I was fortunate enough to be approached by our landlord almost 3 years before lease maturity to negotiate the terms of a 20-year extension. I have an amazing relationship with my landlord in New York and they value the presence of Milos in their building, therefore they approached us with very reasonable terms for a 20-year lease renewal, which has been uncommon in New York lately. They also offered two additional premises: a 10,000 square foot lower level space and an 850 square foot retail space. The new subterranean private dining space adds 200 seats of flexible private dining, featuring a grand marble spiral staircase. Our high demand for private dining over the last 20 years and the feedback that we consistently receive from our guests regarding private dining inspired the plans to expand to private dining. We are now capable of accommodating larger groups, which we have never been able to do in the past. The main dining room renovation includes imported Pentelikon marble, used on some of Greece’s most famed landmarks, including the Parthenon, pyrofania lights, which adorn the bow of the fishing boats that supply the restaurant, and Dinesen heart oak wood floors.
Please describe the menu at Estiatorio Milos. What is the process involved in selecting the offerings? How often does the menu change?
Our menu is in reality just a general guide and guests rely very little on the menu. For all practical purposes, the real menu is our fish market where one finds and selects his/her lunch or dinner. Based on availability, seasonality, weather condition and luck, every day our fish market/ menu may offer different goodies. Heirloom tomatoes in August and September, stone crabs in the winter, soft shell crabs in the summer, sardines and anchovies when not a full moon, red snapper of a certain size and up to help with its sustainability.. wild spinach in October and artichokes in May. We work directly with small producers and fishermen whom we trust. Fishermen that care to leave fish for their children and grandchildren to continue the family’s profession.
Estiatorio Milos recently won the Concierge Choice Awards’ International Cuisine Category. What are the criteria considered when presenting this award to the recipient?
Established in 2007, the Concierge Choice Awards recognize companies, organizations, and individuals who create exceptional experiences for New York City visitors. Winners are selected by a committee of the city’s most recognized concierges in New York City. Estiatorio Milos was recognized for its unparalleled dedication to quality ingredients and traditional Greek Cuisine.
What does winning the Concierge Choice Awards’ International Cuisine Category represent to you on a personal level?
Its’ recognition that I am on the right path; that doing what I am passionate about is appreciated and our food connects with more people on a bigger scale. Concierges will see the guests when they return from the places that they recommend. They must look good to their guests. If we at Milos can make them look good that makes us very happy. To receive such a prestigious reward, I guess, it reconfirms the efforts that we make to provide to all our guests a memorable experience in our city.
You have brought exceptional ingredients from the Mediterranean to Estiatorio Milos. How did you develop such strong relationships with your Mediterranean purveyors?
The core of what I am doing is to create relationships with small producers and work with generations of farmers and fishermen, supporting their way of doing things, always with respect to nature. I have been developing these personal relationships for almost 40 years now and there is a mutual trust and pride between Milos and our suppliers.
What does the future look like for Costas Spiliadis and Estiatorio Milos? Expansion?
Our future is exciting. We are honored to be opening a second restaurant in New York in 2019 as part of the Hudson Yards development project alongside several great chefs. We are currently working on expansions via projects that are complementary to our brand and to our mission to continuously enhance the world’s perception of Greek cuisine. Our first Markato will be opening later this year, showcasing Greece and the world’s finest ingredients in a specialty retail store adjacent to the Milos New York location on 55th. With our restaurants in Montreal, New York, Athens, Las Vegas, Miami and London, we have gained an international following of loyal guests that would love to see us expand to various metropolitan cities around the world… stay tuned.
To learn more about Estiatorio Milos, please visit their website.