Impeccable hospitality at Tinos

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A new addition to the Tinios family in Hampton

By Rachel Forrest

Hampton Union, The Edge, February 5, 2016

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

The impeccable hospitality at Tinos Greek Kitchen began before we got through the front door. We wandered around a bit, trying to find the entrance (it’s obvious, really. It was just “us”) and ran into someone outside who looked like they worked at one of John Tinios' restaurants - The Galley Hatch or his new, adjacent and upstairs Tinos. We asked how to get into the restaurant and he immediately dropped everything he was doing (something with boxes) to escort us to the front door. Seems like a small thing any restaurant employee should or would do, but well, I think we know it can be rare. Later, that man, Adam St. Jean, would make me my Argonaut, a warm and lively cocktail with Batavia Arack, Allspice Dram, lime juice and a pineapple leaf garnish.

That impeccable hospitality is something John Tinios is well-known for, and now, he has a setting for not just the welcoming and warmth behind his own restaurant ethic, but behind that of Greek culture. Just watching the way he moves through the elegant, but still homey dining room, chatting about his trips to the island of Tinos, backed up by a soundtrack of danceworthy Greek music, is a joy.

A feeling of liveliness, camaraderie and family comes from all aspects of this new restaurant, including, of course, the delicious food and drink. Tinios drew just the right team for this new venture and I’ve known most of them for well over a decade. Beverage Director Michael Gehron (also Assistant GM) showed us his progressive cocktail talents at 43 Degrees North and the One Hundred Club among other spots, and chef Mark Segal, now Executive Chef for all of the Galley Hatch group restaurants heads up the kitchen at Tinos hands-on. We know him from Pesce Blue, the One Hundred Club and Demeters. Tinos is the perfect place for him, because he gets to start with an ancient and beloved cuisine and reinvent it in surprising, delightful and delicious dishes. Chef Mary Reilly, former chef/owner of Enzo’s in Newburyport, was called in to consult. Not only is she a talented chef, but she’s Greek as well (Papadopoulos), and Segal says she was a big part of the development of the menu and her expertise shows in this reinvented Greek cuisine.

There are many ways to dine here beginning with location. The bar is there, a chef’s counter and cushy booths. There’s a small counter facing the bar, too, and when the weather gets a bit warmer, plenty of outdoor seating on a patio with a huge modern pit fireplace. There’s even a bar there, too. There are also many ways to enjoy the menu. Share cold or warm mezze, flatbreads and gyros or go all out with a whole grilled fish or a whopper of a ribeye. We opted for sharing many smaller dishes.

Be sure to try one of the great cocktails, most using Greek spirits in some way or other Greek influences. The beer list has many local brews on tap and the by-the-glass wine list has selections from Europe, the Mediterranean and, of course, Greece, including retsina. Definitely try a Greek wine. We get it on the Seacoast so rarely. Start with the chef’s daily mezze selection with little bites which might include a smoky grilled scallop, a stuffed grape leaf, eggplant pate and marinated anchovies with slices of grilled chicken. Be sure to order at least a few of the grilled dishes (you can’t really avoid it which is good) because they have a wood-fired grill right inside the kitchen, which is open to the entire dining room.

A long dish of wood-fired artichokes come with grilled leeks and a charred tomato romesco sauce for mixing all the smoky, sweet vegetables into ($9) and a chef’s daily crudo on our visit was thin slices of salmon with herbs and a light olive oil. On to warm mezze like a hearty dish of braised rabbit, tender slivers in a barley pilaf with Metaxa soaked prunes, wilted greens, large pearl onions and a dollop of tangy yogurt. Metaxa is a Greek brandy perfect with this robust dish ($14.95). That and a Greek Village salad might be enough for dinner, but then you’d miss out on the cravable lollypop lamb chops - three juicy, smoky and tender chops with a rich Greek wine demi-glace. Just pick them up with your fingers and dive in ($21.95).

 Lacquered pork riblets with a small flaky filo pie filled with bitter greens and topped with pomegranate and feta are a bit messy for finger food, but do that “fall off the bone” thing we all seem to seek. The meat is encased in a crisp, sweet glaze with chewy bits and tender bits for a great texture mix. Get the Riverslea Farm goat gyros and forget what you think of as a “gyro.” This is not slices of meat inside a folded pita with tzatziki sauce. Instead, chef Segal takes the concept and makes it into a new form, the goat made into little patties resting on a crisp fritter made from fava beans. Each gyro has a dollop of spicy green tomato relish which adds some tang and heat. It’s one of the ways the kitchen talent takes a traditional Greek dish and makes it modern while incorporating our local New England ingredients, a true regional cuisine ethic. Similarly, the moussaka -- here called a traditional Greek casserole -- is updated with layers of lentils within the eggplant as well as sweet potato, then topped with an apple and saffron bechamel before cooked to bubbling in a cast iron skillet ($11.25). It has a luscious texture and a terrific harvest aura about it, true Greek comfort food. I love how the traditional Greek ingredients - oregano, fennel, spinach, yogurt, olives, preserved lemon and so many more are used in new ways. The whole grilled fish, for example, is in an avgolemono sauce, while grilled octopus comes with oil cured olives and preserved lemon vinaigrette.

You might want to go ahead and order mini baklava for dessert or the Citrus Scented Triple Chocolate Torte, layers of flourless cake ganache, and dark chocolate mousse with orange essence, but if it’s your first time, go for the dessert mezze with two each of the baklava, a mini galaktoboureko (custard cake), the round donuts called loukomades with honey for dipping, Greek cookies, and four little grapes dipped in chocolate, both white and dark. It’s really a perfect ending to this meal and we ate every single bite. Have a Greek coffee and John Tinios will tell your future from the grounds - the saucers were designed for just such an activity. Have an after-dinner sip of grappa or Greek liquor, too.

The talents I’ve long admired have all landed in just the right place, chef Segal (and consultant Reilly) with his ability to adapt this traditional cuisine and make it his own and, on the beverage side, Michael Gehron with his unique cocktails and the enthusiastic and talented bar staff behind them. And as for the hospitality - the staff will welcome you and take care of you like you’re part of the family. One big Greek family.

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