The first Cypriot restaurant to open in Chicago, executive chef Costa Georgiou recreates the food of his homeland, Cyprus; his mother even ships wine from the island to the restaurant.
Unlike Greek food, whose salty and vinegary tones bite the tongue, Venus' food possesses a complexity that evolved from the constant occupation of the island over centuries by the Persians, French, Turks and Italians. Georgiou emphasizes this fusion through inclusion of unexpected seasonings like coriander, cumin and cinnamon on pork.
The mezes tou erota, or "tastes of love," are tapas-style dishes like panakorize, a spinach-rice dish, and halloumi, a goat cheese served hot. Entree-wise, kleftiko, prepared by wrapping lamb in foil and oven-baking for six hours until tender, falls off the bone at the touch of your fork, and is some of the best we've savored. It's joined by individual pots of mousakas tsoukas and marinated pork. Be sure to sample the wine; the Domaine Nicolaides' multiple layers make it an ideal complement to most dishes. Those fond of grappe shouldn't pass up the Cypriot version, zivania. Take advantage of the $3 appetizer menu, offered from 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Chris Benevich