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Editor's note: Looking at the menu in August 2017, when I re-edited this post, shows significant price increases, including the stifado, which is now $26.95 compared to $18.95.
By VICTOR E. SASSON
Dinner at Taverna Mykonos in Elmwood Park brought back warm memories of meals I enjoyed during a visit to Greece in the early 1990s -- extra-virgin olive oil, a profusion of fresh lemons, aromatic oregano, glasses brimming with ouzo and fish harvested with the help of dynamite.
This upscale taverna on busy Broadway has been open about five weeks, and shares a building with a nail salon. It seats 80 in booths and at tables. The modern setting includes photos of the islands and beautiful tiles used as framed art, as well as wall- and floor-coverings. A bar is at the rear, and there are wine cases here and there.
The restaurant serves traditional fare. It was opened by the Panteleakis family, which has operated Oceanos, a fish house, formerly Peter's Whale, in neighboring Fair Lawn for many years.
We started with hummus and Greek pita ($6.95) and horyatiki ($9.95), a salad of skin-on cucumbers, ripe tomatoes, sweet pepper, onion, olives and a block of feta cheese.
The salad apparently was made ahead and refrigerated, robbing big, beautiful tomato sections of much of their flavor.
The dressing, however, was delicious sopped up with the warm pita. In view of all the lemon used in Greek food, the creamy hummus sure could have used some.
We ordered only two entrees --stifado, a bowl of slow-cooked pork chunks, onion and mashed potatoes ($18.95); and barbounia, a special of red mullet, a fish I haven't seen on New Jersey menus before ($19.95).
We received five, small pan-seared whole fish in a simple lemon sauce and oven roasted potatoes. A wonderful, tasty, little fish. My son raved about the tenderness of the pork.
I also ordered a dish of horta ($4.95) -- sauteed dandelion with olive oil and lemon juice added at the table. This is a delicious green I enjoyed often in Greece.
We were walk-ins and were surprised when the waiter brought us three desserts on the house, including creamy rice pudding topped with coconut, and two gooey confections with whipped sweet cream, set on a plate covered in chocolate, cinnamon and powdered sugar. I guess all customers receive them during the restaurant's grand opening.
I tried a couple of spoonfuls of rice pudding, but it was too cold to really enjoy, and my wife and son were too full to finish the other desserts.
Prices are higher than at the Greek To Me chain, and portions range from skimpy (hummus) to good (the red mullet special). Service was excellent, but the dining room was only a quarter full when we left.
Our meal, with two soft drinks (free refills) and a glass of retsina wine ($7), came to $76.75 with tax but not tip. I'll go back for the quality of the food.
After we were seated, we were brought a big loaf of indifferent white-and-dark bread and some extra-virgin olive oil for dipping. I tried the doughy loaf, and immediately asked for toasted Greek pita, the only bread that should be served there.
We saw valet parkers when we arrived around 5 on Saturday evening, but I believe you can park in a small lot behind the restaurant reachable from Broadway. I parked on a side street.
Fishing with dynamite
Oh, about fishing with dynamite. On my early '90s visit to Athens, the Pelopennese and some of the islands, including Crete, Santorini and Rhodes, fish in restaurants was very expensive, and the explanation I saw in guide books was that Greek fishermen used dynamite to kill their catch, leading to overfishing.
Taverna Mykonos, 238 Broadway (Route 4), Elmwood Park; 201-703-9200.