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Yia Mas! “To Our Good Health”

Flavorful Goodness at Koutouki Greek

By Lauren Del Sarto
Ouzo shrimp

Greeks are known for their celebratory lifestyle with zorba dancing, plate smashing and big family celebrations. They also bring us some of the best – and healthiest – Mediterranean cuisine. 

Fortunately, you can find all this fun and goodness in Palm Desert at Koutouki Greek Estiatorio. The family-owned restaurant is the heart and dedication of Chef/Manager Chris St. Denis and wife, Dina Psalios, daughter of Yianni Psalios of Yianni’s Taverna & Greek Marketplace in Cathedral City. Yianni established multiple Koutouki restaurants in Canada before moving to the desert to be near Chris and Dina. The family is close. Chris started working for Yianni as a teen when he and Dina began dating. They are now raising two boys of their own while serving up captivating cultural cuisine for the rest of us to enjoy.

The Koutouki Spritzer is one of many crafted cocktails.

Koutouki is a must for those seeking an array of healthy, clean and flavorful options. Starting with the freshest ingredients, all dishes are homemade daily, including traditional spanakopita, gyros, dolmades, moussaka and baklava for those who prefer an indulgent night out.

Traditional dolmades

My husband and I primarily prefer seafood and vegetables and seek out restaurants with a variety of both, along with gluten-free options. In our several trips to Koutouki, we have yet to try it all. On this evening, we brought mom along to help us sample some of the traditional meat dishes as well.

Arni kleftiko, slow-roasted lamb

Chef started with pikilia featuring four homemade dips: melizano (eggplant), homous, tzatziki (yogurt, garlic, cucumber) and kopanisti, a creamy spiced feta; carrots and cucumbers were substituted for pita bread. The halloumi, a mixture of goat and sheep’s cheese served with tomatoes and cucumbers, is a personal favorite for its unique texture and taste. The dolmades, stuffed grape leaves filled with ground beef and rice, are lighter than anticipated and available with tzatziki as a gluten-free option.

Appetizers include pikilia featuring homemade dips and grilled halloumi cheese.

For the main course, the ouzo shrimp shines with a sweet garlicky sauce and large tender prawns. The mussels are enticing as well, but this night we opted for a few house specialties, including the arni kleftiko, slow-roasted lamb shoulder. Simply seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon and oregano, the melt-in-your-mouth entrée is tenderly roasted for 10 hours. It is exceptional, as are the paidakia (grilled lamb chops) and Greek pork ribs lightly seasoned and braised for hours before sautéed to create a crisp savory covering and tender inside. 

Athenian mussels

The vegetarian options are abundant as cold or hot appetizers, including roasted and marinated red bell peppers, butter beans with fresh herbs, and traditional Greek cucumber and tomato salad (horiatiki) with or without feta. 

Greek yogurt with honey drizzle

In addition to the extensive menu, another great reason to return to Koutouki again and again is the family-style ambiance and friendly, spirited staff. The name roughly translates to a “familiar hole-in-the-wall,” and the restaurant is designed as an authentic tavern you would stumble upon as you toured the Greek isles. Blue and white décor is surrounded by green vines, hanging fruit and family photos adorning the wall. Servers Adrian and Miguel are accommodating and certain to make you smile. During non-pandemic times, you may even experience zobra or belly dancing along with the festive plate smashing tradition
(a crowd favorite!).

The thoughtfully prepared family recipes are accompanied by a nice selection of wines, a variety of beers including Greece’s Mythos lager, and a colorful selection of crafted cocktails such as the Koutouki Spritzer with mint and prosecco over ice.

Whether you wish to indulge or enjoy a guiltlessly healthy meal, a trip to Koutouki offers a fun and memorable experience, so put it on your list of local restaurants to support. Chris and Dina currently welcome guests for dinner with patio dining and take-out (and don’t be surprised to see the kids helping out). Catering is also available. 

Koutouki Greek Estiatorio is located at 73675 Highway 111 in Palm Desert and serves dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 4 p.m. (760) 834.8221. For more information, visit www.KoutoukiGreek.com.

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