Photo Credit: Ikanos
Most folks who follow the Paleo diet all know too well how difficult it is to find a restaurant that will cater to dietary restrictions. In some cases, I have even had some restaurant owners tell me that their restaurants wouldn't be a 'fit' for the Paleo diet because they serve vegetables...uh, yikes! Though the Paleo template's popularity has risen in years and more people are aware of the diet, there are still many who have no clue what Paleo people eat or don't eat. So trying to explain one's dietary restrictions at a restaurant can be a challenging feat.
Montreal throws a popular annual food festival during the month of February. Being Paleo, I used to avoid food festivals altogether - I hated seeing what I was missing out on! It wasn't until I started the Getting Primal blog that I started pushing myself to start looking into Paleo-friendly travel establishments. Though it has been difficult and trying at times, I have discovered a few gems along the way. As part of the Montreal en Lumiere Festival, I discovered Paleo-friendly restaurant Ikanos,a new and fast emerging restaurant specializing in Greek and Mediterreanean cuisine, which is situated in Old Port, Montreal.
Photo Credit: Ikanos
Ikanos is ran by owner-chef Constant Mentzas who has several years managing restaurants under his belt. He previously managed Greek Restaurant Tasso which focused on providing Greek dishes mezze-style. Ikanos offers a variety of mezzes as well but it takes on the more conventional approach of having the typical entree, mains, and dessert in their menu. Abundant seafood options and fresh vegetables make up their menu. It is fine dining so prices are just a tad higher than average. Ikanos does offer some specials for budgeted Paleo travellers and diners. Some deals worth looking out for is the four course dinner menu enough to share between two people for $75 and the lunch deal for one for $22.
Paleo Savy Score 9/10: Owner-chef Constant was not aware of the Paleo diet prior to my first correspondence with him. He, however, jumped online and researched what it means to eat Paleo before my husband and I visited the restaurant. His understanding of Paleo still needed some work which became apparent when he asked questions about the diet but I had no need to be concerned. Constant and his servers asked if certain ingredients would be acceptable as they brought the dishes out throughout the night. His motivation to find out about the diet and accommodate us accordingly, in my humble opinion, earned my respect and gratitude. I felt safe knowing we were in good hands.
Atmosphere 10/10: Upon first entering the restaurant, my husband commented that he felt underdressed. Ikanos does convey a fine dining atmosphere but not in the sense that it felt stuffy or ostentatious. Ikanos, in fact, was very cozy and inviting. With its subdued warm lighting, friendly servers and staff, Ikanos proved to be a very relaxed and serene environment. Ikanos' setting was zen with a hint of opulence. Though formal enough to impress a first date, Ikanos does not give off a pompous feel. Ikanos will appeal to those who want a reason to dress up for a night out as well as for guests who prefer a more casual and laid back meal.
Photo Credit: Ikanos
Disclaimer: My husband and I can tolerate dairy (my husband in minimal amounts) so we left dairy options in our meals. Ikanos will cater to dietary restrictions so if you need to leave the dairy out of your meals, it is best to contact the restaurant beforehand.
For the night, we ordered the four course meal special ($75) except we skipped the dessert.
1st course 10/10: Greek Salad. Our first course was a simple yet delicious Greek salad. We opted to leave the cheese in our salad and Ikanos' chef added just the right amount. Not too salty or acidic, with a glorious intermingling of cheese, dressing and fresh vegetables, the salad tasted fresh, crispy, and flavourful. My favourite part about the salad apart from the dressing and the cheese was the hot peppers. I am not a fan of spicy peppers or spicy food in general but found the peppers in the salad too difficult to resist. It was spicy, yes, but its flavours were so bold and enticing that I ate the entire pepper in two bites which is a first for me. After we gobbled the salad all up, my husband asked why I have not made Greek salad in a long time. Admittedly, I am not much of a salad person but I was sold.
2nd course 10/10: Seafood platter. For our second course, we had the seafood platter which was composed of scallops, shrimps, and octopus grilled to perfection. Upon first seeing the dish, my husband and I felt like we were in seafood heaven. For those who cannot tolerate dairy, the dipping sauce was cream-based so you may want to ask about other sauce options or skip it altogether. Packed with fresh seafood, the dish was scrumptious and succulent. The dish in itself was gratifying but dipping the variety of seafood into the home-made cream sauce gave it that extra "ooomph". When I told my mom the dish contained octopus, she mentioned she did not like seeing that she was eating tentacles. For diners like my mom who have a weird fear of eating tentacles (no judgment!), there's no need to be concerned. The octopus was chopped up so that you could not tell you were eating some. Nothing in the dish was too oily, tough, or slimy which is a common concern with under or overcooked seafood. Ikanos' seafood platter was the perfect example of how seafood should be prepared and served. The dish does come with breaded squid on the side so just skip that part of the meal, or ask for alternative options. Overall, the dish was heavenly. It was satiating but was light enough so we did not feel too stuffed.
3rd course 8/10: Grilled fish and vegetables. Our third platter was composed of grilled fish and vegetables. The fish was seasoned just right, not too salty as I find most fish dishes are. Like the second platter, it was light and yet filling enough. The grilled vegetables were tasty and delightfully crunchy. Overall, I have nothing negative to say about the dish. The dish was pleasing to my taste buds but paled in comparison to the seafood platter.
Randy kept saying over and over that the meals were the best he's ever had. I have never seen him so enthused about food. I mean, I have seen him engulf a box of chocolates in the past without so much as a mention of how delicious those were. He was raving about Ikanos' food like he's never had seafood before. After having the three courses, we left the restaurant satiated enough but not full to the point of wanting to go home and head to bed. We felt good after eating Ikanos' food. Fuel for our old tired bodies, we were ready to face the rest of the night head-on.
Cocktail 10/10: I have to make a special mention of their Ikanos Avavas cocktail. Formulated for a contest, the cocktail is composed of an interesting and exquisite mix of rhum brun, metaxa, home made roasted pineapple juice, pine essence, hot pepper, and lemon zest. The drink may not have been exactly Paleo but it was a welcome treat. There was no added sugar except for the sugar naturally found in the roasted pineapple. It was not too sweet as often most cocktails are. I often find having cocktails make me feel sick after one or two because of the high sugar content. With Ikanos' cocktail, after two (Do not judge! Paleo police need not apply.), I did not get that feeling at all. The drink tasted fresh and light just like the meals.
We had the pleasure of eating at #Paleo-friendly restaurant Ikanos as part of the Montreal en Lumiere festival. A feature on the restaurant is coming to the Getting Primal blog! #MTLenLumiere #ikanos @mtlenlumiere @ikanos_mtl #paleo #paleodiet #paleofood #paleolifestyle #eatrealfood #eatrealfoods #naturalfood #seafoodlover #seafoodplatter #montréal #montreal #realfood #greekfood #healthyfood
Verdict: Visiting Ikanos and being able to taste their marvelous food made me place Greece higher on my must-visit bucket list. Actually, forget about turning it into a vacation, if Greece has food offerings similar to what Ikanos has to offer, I might very well just move there.
For more information about Ikanos, make sure to visit their website. They are open Mondays to Friday, 11:30-14:30, and then from 17:30-22:30, Fridays to Saturdays, 1:30-23:30, and closed on Sundays. Make sure to contact the restaurant beforehand to let them know of your dietary restrictions, and make sure to tell them Getting Primal sent you! ;)
Disclosure: All or a portion of this meal was sponsored or provided at a reduced cost in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed in this post are my own - no pretenses here!
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