“Cooking is an art,” said Xenos Kohilas of Ikaros Restaurant, 4805 Eastern Avenue.
“First, you collect the ingredients,” he said. “You know the names of the food, their colors, textures and what they taste like. Next, you start dancing; you are cutting, chopping and mixing the food together. You put them in a pot and they change shape and color. They turn into new colors and sometimes they sing. You can hear how the foods sound.”
Xenos smiled. “It is art that you are eating.”
I visited Ikaros with a friend to see the Daily Camden exhibit and to taste what we had heard was authentic Greek cuisine.
Ikaros’ menu is vast. I saw crab soup for $5.95, t-bone and sirloin steak for $17.95, orange roughy for $18.95, rockfish for $21.95. Xenos told me that one of the restaurant’s specialties is the serving of a whole fish, adding that he uses family recipes.
“Some are only shared with my brother, my sister or my cousins, we are a family operated business,” he said.
My companion and I started with an appetizer, Ikaros’ spinach and feta cheese pie for $6.75. It was described as strudel leaves stuffed with spinach that is cooked with herbs and mixed with feta cheese. The strudel was flaky and crisp and the spinach and feta blended so beautifully, it melted in my mouth. Neither overwhelmed the other. Delicious.
My companion, who has visited Greece, ordered Ikaros “famous” fried squid (kalamari), served with two vegetables (she had carrots with green beans and pasta) for $17.95.
“This is very good,” she said. “I’ve had tough kalamari and this is the complete opposite. The fish is light, the fried crust, crunchy. It is delightful and the portions are generous.” She added that the food at Ikaros was as good, if not better, than she ate in Greece.
“I will not serve kalamari unless it is fresh,” Xenos told us. He added that he buys his seafood locally.
I ordered the braised lamb, cooked with fresh string beans in a sauce of tomatoes, herbs and wine for $16.75. The meat was so tender, it fell off the bone. The string beans were seasoned and well marinated, with a lovely blend of garlic, olive oil and wine.
Our server was Rebecca Simmons, a graduate of Dundalk High School, who recommended my choice of lamb from the menu. With a pony tail of thick, dark hair that hung down her back, Rebecca was attentive, cheerful and efficient.
Xenos can tell you that he landed at Friendship Airport (now Thurgood Marshall-Baltimore Washington International) at 4:10 p.m. on September 17, 1975 to join his brother at Ikaros which opened in 1969. He came to Baltimore from Ikaria, one of the Greek Islands, and wanted to go to school for music. He plays the electric keyboard.
He is also a photographer and painter. The room in which we ate displayed his photographs of Greek locations and he allowed me to snap his photo next to the portrait of the violinist he painted.
For dessert, we had homemade kataifi, shredded wheat stuffed with walnuts and what tasted like honey or maple syrup. Wonderful! And baklava, another homemade pastry made with walnuts, filo and Ikaros’ special syrup. Crunchy, not too sweet, truly delicious. The desserts were $3.25.
Theodosis Kohilas, Xenos’ brother, opened the Daily Camden display room for us. The display is a selection of photographs published on this website during the 2010 baseball season. Click here to view the photos. The Daily Camden room has simple, white walls that exhibit the photos beautifully.
“It is an honor to host the Daily Camden exhibit,” Xenos told me. “I think it is a natural [collaboration] with the Orioles. We are all part of Baltimore. Who knows? Maybe the exhibit will bring good luck to the Orioles!”