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Restaurant Profile: Opa (With Bonus Greek Cookie Recipe)

The modern Greek restaurant, Opa, is a beacon of sustainability in Midtown Village. Photo courtesy: Opa

George and Vasiliki Tsiouris, the brother and sister team behind Midtown Village’s Opa, opened their modern Greek restaurant in February 2011. With a focus on sustainability – both in design and in food – Opa is a refreshing take on the traditional Greek restaurant.

The kitchen is led by Philadelphia native Andrew Brown, who has been cooking professionally for over 20 years. Brown puts Opa’s sustainability philosophy into action by using locally grown beef, pork and produce. He works primarily with Green Meadow Farm and follows seafood sourcing guidelines from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who named him a Chef Ambassador in 2008.

Opa’s menu includes family recipes that have been modernized by Chef Brown who worked closely with the Tsiouris’ mother, a collaboration that ensured the authentic elements of Greek cuisine were represented. Highlights include the Gyro Sliders, their amazing Grilled Octopus with a chickpea fondue and chili oil, the Keftedes (or Greek meatballs) served with an ouzo-infused tomato sauce and their Wine Braised Rabbit. Opa’s bar also turns out some refreshing cocktails like the Antho, made with cucumber vodka, lemon and dill.

Opa’s interior was crafted by famed restaurant designer, Jun Aizaki (who also designs restaurants for Jose Garces). Aizaki wanted to create a global platform for Greek cuisine that, like the menu, is both authentic and modern. The restaurant’s design includes a 24-seat bar made of river rock and their dining tables are made of reclaimed oak from Lancaster county. Additionally, wood paneling was also sourced from the stable of Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro.

Whether you’re looking for a great place to grab a delicious Greek meal or want a hip downtown spot to enjoy a drink with friends, Opa is a sure bet. They serve lunch Monday – Friday from 11:30 to 2:30 and dinner Monday – Saturday, beginning at 5PM.

And, because it’s the holidays, Opa’s staff was kind enough to share their favorite Greek cookie recipe. Generally enjoyed around the holidays, these cookies provide a versatile platform to decorate as you like, although, traditionally they are topped with sesame seeds. Happy baking!

Greek Holiday Cookies

8oz butter (sweet unsalted)
1 egg and 4 egg yolks
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 cups flour
sesame seeds for decorating (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Beat the sugar and butter together in the bowl of a mixer at medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until combined.

In a small bowl, combine the orange juice and baking soda together and add to egg mixture. (TOTAL MIXING TIME FOR PRIOR AND ABOVE, ABOUT 5 MIN)

In a large bowl, mix the baking powder with the flour. Slowly add to the egg mixture at very low speed and mix for 2 minutes. Do not over beat. Once combined, let dough rest in the mixer bowl for a few minutes. When ready, the dough should have a medium elasticity that allows it to be rolled/braided.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Depending on the shapes you would like to make, you can use cookie cutters or braid small amounts of the dough together (this is traditional).

Place shaped cookies on a buttered sheet pan. Beat one egg yoke with a few drops of water and brush on top of the prepared cookies. Sprinkle sesame seeds, if using, on top of cookies and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Yields 50-60 cookies.