"For those in search of a sleek downtown
eatery, visit Eleni's newer northwest branch, which opened it's
doors only a few months ago. For those in search of a comfort
and romance, the original location offers warmth, candlelight,
and a Sellwood address."
-Portland Mercury, 9/04
"Vivid, elemental ingredients like lemons, olives,
garlic and honey form the basis for traditional Greek food, and Eleni
Touhouliotis knows how to make the best of them
-Portland Tribune, 10/04
"The prize of the evening was definitely
gigantes, a shallow bowl of enormous lima beans
sauteed in olive oil with garlic, peppers, and tomatoes, lightly
spiced with fresh chili pepper. It sounds too easy, but somehow this
simple combination created a beautiful harmony. The intricate strains
of chili pepper brought the whole chorus of tastes to life; it was
one of the most satisfying and original dishes I've ever had."
-Portland Mercury, 9/04
"Great portion size, and the flavors are great,"
says Matthew Sturken of Porto Terra. "It's right on for Greek food.
Their tapenade was amazing."
-Portland Monthly, 10/05
In America, most Greek food has an unremarkable
consistency--a few iconic ingredients (lamb, legumes, parsley), predictably
prepared. A little olive oil, a little garlic--tasty, but unsurprising.
After all, just how creative can you get with chick peas?
At Eleni's Philoxenia, the new restaurant in the
much-loved Cafe Azul's Pearl District spot, that's not a rhetorical
question. Here there's much, much more to Greek food than garlicky
grout. The menu offers many favorite Cretan dishes and preparations
from the owner's successful Sellwood restaurant, Eleni's Estiatorio,
which opened in 2000. At the new restaurant, diners can expect an
even more extensive menu, with a fresh bit of downtown flourish--graceful
garnishes, stylish plating.
A classic introduction to chef Eleni Touhouliotis'
food is the feta me filo ($7), a cheese-filled packet of
house-made filo dough doused in ouzo, then baked and drizzled with
honey. Its barely crisp edges yield to a chewy inside, the salty-sweet
seasoning and dusting of chopped olives on top keeping it from verging
into dessert territory. You'll find calamari among the starters
as well, either grilled (schara kalamari, $8) or pan-fried
(kalamarakia, $8). Both arrive steaming hot from the pan
and impressively tender, the schara kalamari mixing the squid with
granules of crisp-fried minced garlic and accompanying it with a
lemony herb salad.
Traditional dishes are re-envisioned
and revived here. Tzatziki ($6), often little more than
a few chips of cucumber wallowing in runny yogurt, is presented
as a thick, garlic-infused spread piled atop elegant ribbons of
peeled cucumber, The moussaka entree, a recent special, transcends
its reputation as Greek lasagna by mingling ground beef, shredded
lamb, tomatoes, eggplant, aromatic peppers and a thin, tart tomato
broth over wilted greens.
Diner 2005: Eleni's Estiatorio
and Eleni's Philoxenia
When chef Eleni Touhouliotis opened her namesake
restaurant in Sellwood a few years ago, she changed perceptions about
what the Greek dining experience could be: Here it was elegant, understated
and blessedly quiet. With her new Pearl District spot, she digs deeper
into the cuisine, exploring the flavors of the island of Crete. Some
dishes are so enticing they've found their way onto the original's
Cuisine: Greek, heavy on the garlic and lemons
Atmosphere: Relaxation carries the day at both places,
though the Pearl location has a more elegant black-and-white decor.
Menu: More than 30 appetizers and salads, most around
17 entrees ($12-$16).
On the cheap: Approach those appetizers tapas style,
and stick to the by-the-glass wine list.
Must-have dishes: Skordalia, a spread of potatoes
and walnuts; pan-fried calamari; phyllo stuffed with feta cheese;
Reasons to go: You love Greek food, but you hate
places with a carnival vibe.
-The Oregonian, 4-22-05
-Greek Love (cont.)
Meat hogs the spotlight on many restaurant menus,
but Eleni's treats carnal ingredients democratically; beef harmonizes
with onion, herbs and tomato sauce in the biftekia meatballs
($8) and lamb is paired with cheese, tomato and pan-broiled broccolini
in a filo special entree, while wine-braised Carlton pork is served
unceremoniously on toast in the mpekri meze ($8). This
evenhanded approach allows the diner to explore new tastes without
The back page of the menu is devoted to pasta
dishes, but it seems senseless to fill up on noodles when there
are so many other fragrant dishes that cut right to the chase.
If makaronia you must have, try one of the dishes that features
fresh and salty Prince Edward Island mussels: Eleni's offers mussels
baked with tomatoes, onions and chilis over ziti (zita
me midia chania, $15) or with clams, prawns, scallops and
fresh vegetables in tomato sauce (linguini tou psara,
A Greek meal ends best in baklava, and Eleni's
is certainly the best in Portland. The typical brick of thinly
layered filo and chopped nuts is sparked up by the splashy addition
of candied orange zest, broken cinnamon bark and a generous sprig
of mint ($6) Molten, crunchy and swimming in honey , there's something
erotic about a dessert you have to eat this slowly. If you're in
a rush, try the ouzo-cinnamon ice cream, served atop a seriously
dense chocolate tart ($6).
If you're used to the poorly lit, depressingly
furnished, ouzo-splattered variety of Greek restaurant, both Eleni's
locations are a treat. Touhouliotis (co-owner along with husband
George, who owned the much-missed Portland rock hall Satyricon)
originally hails from Chania, Crete--you know, that tiny island
off the Greek coast where the Minoan civilization used to hang
out. Since emigrating to the United States at age 18, Eleni has
been hip-deep in dolmades, working years at Dimitri's on Burnside
(which is owned by her brother-in-law) before opening her first
The new downtown spot--the Greek name, by the
way, translates as "hospitality"--is freshly dressed up with warm
wood and black and white draperies, glossy-dark wainscoting and
organic Noguchi-like pendent light fixtures. The space feels airy,
cosmopolitan and--two words we finally have the opportunity to
apply to Greek food--classically elegant.
-Elizabeth Dye, Willamette Week, 01/06