Ikaros owner/chef reveals secret to his Greek cuisine
rick mcginnis/metro toronto
Pavlos Douros, owner and chef at Ikaros, in the dining room of his restaurant.
2029 Yonge St.
Lunch: Mon.-Fri., 11: 30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Dinner: Mon.-Sat., 4:30 p.m.-11 p.m.; Sun., 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m.
Dinner for two w/tax & tip: $75
**** (out of 5)
There’s a Greek word that describes what Pavlos Douros looks for in a restaurant. It’s hard to translate, so he calls over his waiter to help him. It’s “not something religious but there’s a lot of passion involved,” says the waiter, and Pavlos takes another stab at trying to explain what it means.
“You go out, you enjoy your food, you sleep well,” he says, and that seems to be enough.
Pavlos Douros had been travelling back and forth between Canada and Greece until two years ago, when he decided to stay put and open Ikaros, serving “authentic Greek cuisine” on the eatery-filled stretch of Yonge between Davisville and Eglinton. He’d been in the business for a while, and owned a place in Woodbridge many years ago before moving back to Greece.
“I am 58,” he says. “I’ve been cooking since I was 16 — my father was a cook, too. My village is in Corfu. After I left I was in Athens, from there I was in the Dodecanese islands, then in 1974 I came to Canada. I was working as a waiter in nice steakhouses. I didn’t work as a chef or cook for anyone else — just my places. The money wasn’t enough — as a waiter I made good money, as a chef they paid you nothing. It’s not like now — they pay good now.
“You have to love what you do. I’m here seven days a week. I come to prepare at 9 or 10, and I close. I’m here all day — I never leave my place for someone else.”
Greek food, like so many ethnic cuisines, has developed a mid-level standard, the sort of culinary bell curve that means that almost everywhere you go, you can expect the same sort of food.
In terms of Greek food, it means dried oregano and lemon and oil marinade on almost everything, and while it obviously satisfied an itch in our taste buds — the Danforth strip is proof of that — it’s nice to imagine that it’s possible to try something a bit more refined.
Your mouth won’t default into a pucker from that acid-sweet lemon marinade at Douros’ restaurant. Just start with his homemade Greek sausage appetizer — a stout little grilled link redolent of anise and pepper, and move on to the lamb souvlaki, tender and accompanied by fresh-tasting rice and real roast potatoes that haven’t spent the afternoon reposing in oil and lemon in some steam table.
“I believe in quality ingredients,” insists Douros. “Plus I’ve been working many years in this business. I don’t have any microwave in my kitchen. Never in my life. I cook a mousaka — I just made the mousaka, I can show it to you. It takes about 15 minutes to cook — by the time you’ve had your glass of wine and your salad, your appetizers, I put it in the oven and it comes to you nice and fluffy.
“I make the Hasapa — the shoulder of lamb, boneless baby lamb. I put some fresh herbs, oregano, garlic inside, then I put in some bones for the juice, some salad, Greek peppers, onions. I roast it, put it in slices. I have the original sauce — I don’t use any stocks. No chicken base, no beef base — I make my own.
“I have a steam table,” he admits, “and I use it maybe once in a while to keep vegetables warm. I prefer to sauté, though — I haven’t used it in a month.”