Little did I realize that after a hectic Saturday afternoon full of checking items off our to–do list, that my suggestion to my husband that we go out for dinner would result in discovering what I am certain will become our new favourite restaurant. We batted back and forth a few suggestions, but I had heard that a mediterranean spot had opened in the former location of the Beaver & Bulldog on Upper James, and that seemed just the ticket. We wanted something a bit more than casual, but nothing we now had to go home and dress up for either. Something that wouldn’t blow the budget. We’re both fond of Greek flavours, so decision made we pulled into the parking lot behind the KFC and made our way into Ios. Pronounced “Eee-ohs” by the way … we asked!
What a find. Don’t let the inauspicious location fool you. Ios is lovely. Perhaps it was just what we really needed after a stressful day but it really was like an oasis of calm as soon as we walked through the doors. Rich dark wood, bright white table linens, sparkling glasses, calm background music and quiet atmosphere. We were welcomed immediately and shown to our table. We relaxed and settled in for what we quickly realized was going to be much more than we expected when we made our decision to try Ios.
The first surprise came with our beverage order. When I asked the server for cocktail suggestions she asked if I liked sangria, saying they had white, red or blue versions. Blue sangria! Hey ho, let’s try that. Despite a laundry list of alcohol the drink was just right, not too potent, beautiful to look at and very tasty. I will definitely order another when we return.
There was quite a tag team of servers here, as well as a very enthusiastic young lady whose main task appeared to be keeping everyone's water glasses full. The restaurant was not overly busy and we had someone different from our beverage server take our dinner orders, and he asked if we had any questions. I said I fancied the fish soup and he suggested I instead have their soup of the day which featured lobster. This was a really great cream based fish soup, generous with the lobster. My husband opted for calamari, which came grilled and was also a large portion of two large pieces of squid. I'd be quite content at lunch hour to just have the soup and some of the grilled pita that appeared complimentarily on our table when we first sat down.
For our mains I chose their Spicy Garlic Shrimp and my husband opted for the Roast Lamb, which is only available Friday through Sunday. Mains are served with a choice of grilled vegetables, steamed greens, or greek salad, and your choice of rice or lemon oven–roasted potatoes or a baked potato. Again we felt we chose well. I found the steamed wild mountain greens, called horta, to be a bit more bitter than I had anticipated but I enjoyed the opportunity to try something new to me. The herb seasoned rice that accompanied my shrimp was perfect for soaking up the garlicky shrimp sauce. The greek salad that my husband’s lamb came with had a lovely huge slice of feta on top, and was not the ‘authentic’ greek salad in that it did include romaine, which was perfect as that is his preference anyway. The lemony potatoes were also a generous serving and cooked in the typical greek fashion.
Having opted for starters and generous mains we had no room left for desserts which was a shame as we saw some wonderful looking doughnutty type things being served to a nearby table. I assume they are the deep fried traditional Greek puffs called loukoumades on the menu. They look like a reason to return! One last surprise arrived at our table, a lovely presentation of fresh cantaloupe, another complimentary item and it was a refreshing end to our meal.
Before we even left Ios we were talking about friends and family that we would have to bring along with us next time. It would be perfect for a date night, and for any occasion when you want a step above casual, when you want a terrific meal prepared with care, everything scratch made, but with an affordable price tag. Starters range for $7.00 to $17, and mains from $22 to $38. Aside from their starters there was a lack of vegetarian options so I would suggest calling ahead if you have a vegetarian in your party to inquire if they could provide some options. They are also open for lunch and I believe they currently have a lunch special that includes a gyro on a pita with fries and a pop for $14.
Ios is truly lovely. Lovely atmosphere, lovely food, and lovely attentive staff. I can’t wait to return. V
Ios Estiatorio & Wine Bar
1400 Upper James St.