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April 4, 2010

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Mythos primed for lazy summer dining

SET in a replica of a traditional Greek white-washed home that overlooks the Huangpu River, Mythos Restaurant and Bar is one of those eateries that comes into its own as the weather heats up.

Like its Greek-themed decor and architecture, the menu of traditional food gives diners a selection of classic Mediterranean flavors that suits lazy summer afternoons lingering over a nice bottle of wine.

Mythos, in Shanghai's Cool Docks redevelopment, is gearing up for a big summer.

Located at the southern end of the Bund opposite the ferry terminal, it is conveniently near the World Expo sight and will benefit from the predicted hordes of visitors.

Part-owned by Esther Zhou, a Beijinger who spent more than 10 years living in Greece, the restaurant attempts to faithfully recreate the feel and food of a traditional Greek restaurant.

Set over four levels, the star of the show is undoubtedly the roof top terrace with sweeping views across to Pudong and up to the Bund.

It also has a light, breezy ground floor bar and the white-washed walls and blue trimmings give this restaurant a feeling of a cooling oasis from Shanghai's searing summer heat.

Zhou is somewhat of an old hand at exporting a country's food culture, having opened a Chinese restaurant when she lived in Greece, before returning to China and starting Mythos in October 2008.

The starters were a good demonstration of Mythos' light summery flavorings, with a tart tzatziki (28 yuan/US$4.10) a good gauge of the kitchen's approach.

Chef Terry Sun comes from a hotel background, having spent 13 years learning his trade at the Ritz Carlton.

He used his own in-house yoghurt for the tzatziki, giving the dip a thick, creamy texture and a real zing that was a solid base for the traditional grated cucumber, lemon juice and garlic.

Finished with a drizzle of good quality olive oil, this was a great dish to have sitting on the table to revisit throughout the meal.

On his specials' list, Sun also demonstrated his deft handling of traditional stuffed squid (128 yuan). The stuffing was a Bolognese-style mince and light Thai rice, with the baby squid pieces served in a light but flavorsome tomato sauce.

When catering for a mix of local and foreign diners in Shanghai it is often a delicate balance between providing bold flavors and approachable dishes.

While Sun has a good take on Greek cuisine, it could have benefited from a rougher, more rustic approach. A bit more garlic punch in the tzatziki and a handful of coarsely cut fresh herbs thrown into the squid at the last moment would have given that roughly hewn feel of traditional Greek food.

But to his credit, Sun doesn't over fiddle the food, and kept to the Mediterranean style of letting a few simple ingredients shine.

"Greek food is family food, so it is a simple cooking style but with good ingredients and the right approach it can be very tasty," Sun said.

Mythos' food is hearty and ideal for sharing, with offerings like moussaka (98 yuan) and rich braised beef stifado (158 yuan) coming with grilled vegetables (zucchini, eggplant and red and yellow peppers) and roast potatoes cooked in lemon butter and thyme and oregano.

It's the kind of food that lends itself well to putting a few plates in the middle so everyone can pick away.

With a summer menu on the way and the temperature gauge rising, this laid back Greek restaurant is an ideal place to enjoy a touch of the Mediterranean style in the heart of bustling Shanghai.


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