Longing for a trip to the Greek islands but can’t make time to get away? Don’t worry. Next spring, Angelo Mitsotakis and his wife Rodi Tzani will open the doors to a new hotspot that will transport you to the land of olive trees and Socrates — with all the succulent seafood, refreshing cocktails, breezy decor, and open-air festivities that entails. The aptly named Mykonos Restaurant will be located in Cabin John Village and will be the third Maryland restaurant from hospitality expert Mitsotakis, 55, who also owns beloved Mykonos Grill and Gyroland in Rockville. Mykonos Restaurant, though, will have a slightly different flavor to it.
“It’s going to be an upscale fine dining Greek restaurant,” Mitsotakis says. “It’s a little bit more contemporary. We’re going to have a big patio covered with pergolas, a fireplace, and an outdoor bar. We’ll have live music Fridays and Saturdays in the summertime. We’ll have a U-shaped bar and people will be able to go from the outside to the inside.”
And the food? This is no gyros-and-fries joint. There will be “a lot of seafood, obviously.” similar to Mykonos Grill, where flaky whole fish branzino is the star. But there will also be “a lot of tapas, a lot of fresh salads, and vegan options. The idea is to cover all the dietary demands of our clientele,” Mitsotakis says. Consultant executive chef Michael Zacharis is flying in from Athens to lead the kitchen; the Piraeus-born chef and culinary instructor has worked in the kitchens of high-end hotels (like the Radisson Blu Park Hotel, Athens; Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens; and White Rocks Hotel Kefalonia) and restaurants, most recently MEZZE Athens.
Some dishes to look forward to include crawfish orzo with Thalassitis wine, freshly ground tomatoes, and Greek basil; cured seafood skewers with tuna, octopus, squid, and shrimp, served with basmati rice, chickpeas, and citrus; green salad with pomegranate sauce and Cretan gruyère; Black Angus steak with oven-baked potatoes, Greek herbs and handmade BBQ sauce; Greek-style scallops ceviche with tiger’s milk with lemon; Black Angus beef with marinated and smoked herbs, handmade pita bread and fermented tomato sauce; grilled octopus with split peas, lemon sauce emulsion, capers, and burnt onion; and deep-fried codfish with a breadcrumb crust, aliada sauce, and glazed beetroot. Are you hungry yet?
Drinks, Mitsotakis says, will be no afterthought. A consulting bartender will create new cocktails based on Greek ingredients, using “liquors that are not well-known in America.” With that horseshoe-shaped bar set to stay open until midnight, a refined party atmosphere is encouraged (just like in Mykonos).
It all sounds divine, doesn’t it? But we’d expect nothing less from Mitsotakis and Tzani, who encourage each other to think big, when they’re not chasing after their two young kids. Tzani serves as marketing manager while Mitsotakis is the general manager. The latter’s impressive career has taken him all over the world and includes stints as a maitre’d in restaurants with three Michelin stars. He was restaurant director at the Astir Palace Hotel and Grand Resort Lagonissi. He’s consulted on scene-setting and food art on Hollywood productions including Mamma Mia! (the wedding scene), Top Chef, and The Real Housewives of Athens. He’s even catered events for presidents Obama and Biden. First Lady Jill Biden and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer are among the return guests to Mykonos Grill, he adds.
Another fan of Mykonos Grill? Perhaps the most important of all: Tom Sietsema, the Washington Post food critic who sang its praises in a 2021 story, “Seven Favorite Places to Eat Right Now.” “When Mitsotakis tells me some of his cooks have been around as long as the restaurant, which opened in 1998, I’m not surprised,” he wrote. “The moussaka — sliced eggplant layered with meat and mashed potatoes so satiny they resemble custard — tastes as before. Lamb chops with lemony roast potatoes are still a path to pursue.” This review provided a boost when the restaurant, like so many others, struggled to stay afloat during the height of Covid-19.
But Mitsotakis was prepared for the challenge. After all, he’d been working in restaurants since the age of 17. If 10,000 hours makes someone a master in a field, as Malcolm Gladwell wrote, Mitsotakis has certainly achieved that several times over. Not only did they survive during the pandemic, but they were able to operate seven days a week with a full menu. It helps, Mitsotakis says, to have a “passion for food and wine” that motivates him, and a partner who shares that passion. “My experience is that when you are consistent on your food quality and your service, people will support you,” he adds. “Basically, the consistency and the quality of your ingredients, and also cooking skills, will keep you alive in this industry.”