Hearing that word reminds me of countless birthdays, holidays, and other life events that I’ve celebrated through the years.
Is it because I’m Greek?
(Well, maybe? My maiden name is Sempetrean and we’re still unsure of its origins…)
But I digress.
I associate opa! with celebration because when there’s a special occasion to share with our family and friends, a meal at Joplin’s Mythos restaurant is usually part of the festivities.
And at Mythos, hearing opa! is part of the experience.
This tiny Greek word, heard at weddings and other celebrations in Greece (as well as in Greek restaurants in our country), is packed with enthusiasm and joy.
Just try saying it right now.
I bet you’re smiling, right?
That’s the same feeling I have whenever I dine at Mythos.
The last time I was there, my husband Travis and I were celebrating Date Night (a two-hour break from parental duties is a BIG deal!).
Once inside, I was immediately transfixed by the cool light – as blue as the Aegean sea – emanating from the sleek bar located in the front of the restaurant. The bar’s modern sophistication offers an interesting contrast to the warm, classic Mediterranean decor of the main dining room and the banquet area.
Stately columns and graceful arches suggest an air of formality, but the welcoming tables with solid wooden chairs say, “Gather your friends and family to relax, enjoy, and celebrate!”
Mythos’ welcoming atmosphere is a natural extension of the gregarious personality of its owner, George Michalopoulos.
With boundless energy and smiling eyes, George is a familiar presence in the dining room, talking to his guests and making them feel as welcome as family.
Did we want something bold and zesty? Then we could choose Mediterranean-style dishes (including the traditional Greek ones passed down from George’s family recipes).
How about something milder? Entrees like the Walnut Chicken would satisfy us.
Did we follow a gluten-free diet? Then we could enjoy the Mango Salmon or one of the tender steaks.
We decided to start with the popular Spicy Feta Dip for an appetizer. Served with warm pita chips, the tangy feta cheese mixture punctuated (!!!) with bits of pepperoncini definitely awakened my taste buds.
The other appetizer we ordered was the Kasseri Saganaki (God, bless you!). Pan seared in olive oil, then finished with a squeeze of lemon, this aged Greek cheese arrived on a tray next to our table.
And then the show began.
Our server poured a touch of brandy on top of the cheese, then set it aflame while exclaiming – here it comes – opa!
People at another table ordered the same thing, and Travis snapped a photo.
Although I didn’t order it on Date Night, one of my favorite appetizers on the menu is the Tour of Mythos. This platter of Greek loveliness contains savory pita meat, spanikopita (phyllo dough filled with spinach and feta), dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), an assortment of olives, and more.
The Tour of Mythos comes with shots of ouzo, an aqua-colored Greek liquor that takes a bit like black licorice. When you drink it, it’s customary to exclaim – you got it – opa!
Our entrees came with a choice of soup or salad. Travis chose the Clam Chowder (he’s been on a quest to find a good clam chowder ever since living in the Northeast), and was pleased with his choice. I chose the special salad of the day: the Wedge (not a Mediterranean dish but I have a weakness for wedges).
See my knife in the photo? I started to dive into the salad before Travis could take a photo.
Seriously, if you saw those crisp greens topped with chopped hardboiled eggs, slices of fresh tomatoes, and bits of smokey bacon bathing in a creamy homemade blue cheese dressing in front of you, you’d be impatient, too.
For my entree, I traveled back to Greece with the Mythos Pickilia, a hearty sampler platter with fragrant aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg. First, I tasted the moussaka, a casserole made with layers of thinly-sliced eggplant, spiced meat (that’s where the cinnamon and nutmeg came in), and a creamy bechamel sauce.
Next, I sampled the pistichio (like a Greek lasagna), which is similar to the moussaka except that pasta noodles are used in place of eggplant, and when the dish is baked the noodles blend with the bechamel sauce to form a custard-like top.
I love how these two traditional Greek dishes (from George’s family’s recipes, in fact) combined savory flavors and sweet aromas. Unique and comforting, they’re unlike anything you’ll taste in Joplin.
Also on my mega-platter were several slices of tender gyro meat topped with tangy feta (like the meat in the Tour of Mythos). Even though I was stuffed at this point, my plate still weighed about five pounds! I decided to take the rest home and enjoy another Greek feast the next day.
Meanwhile, Travis was in heaven enjoying every last bite of his entree, a special that night which combined a beef filet and a lobster tail.
When our waiter had assured us that Mythos serves some of the best steaks in town, he wasn’t kidding; Travis’ hand-trimmed black angus steak was melt-in-your-mouth tender.
A succulent lobster tail, a sizable baked potato, and a medley of fresh seasonal vegetables rounded out his dish.
Full and content (and too tired to talk), we leaned back in our chairs and looked around the dining room.
One couple was sharing an intimate meal in one of the cozy alcoves, a jovial family (with members young and old) was seated around an enormous round table, and a large group of friends at the table behind us gathered together for a surprise birthday party.
Could Date Night get any merrier?
Why, yes, it could. Just add some dessert, like the Deconstructed Tiramisu.
The Mythos version of tiramisu breaks down the components of this layered Italian dessert; sweet mocha-flavored marscapone is whipped on top of a rich chocolate cup, with a crisp lady finger leaning against it, instead of on the bottom like in the traditional version (which makes it soggy).
So, at Mythos I was able to enjoy the coffee/chocolate flavors that I crave without having to endure biting into soggy lady fingers. Brilliant and delicious!
Someone came to our table just then, and asked if we had enjoyed our meal. At first, I was somewhat disappointed to be distracted from my tiramisu nirvana, but then I realized that it was GEORGE! Yes, this jovial man standing at our table was, in fact, the reason why we were able to enjoy an edible Greek vacation without leaving Joplin.
Thanks, George, for bringing opa! to JOMO.
*Photos by Travis Smith.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.