First look: Limani restaurant


March 30, 2023

Limani drops anchor at Phillips Place with sparkling interiors and seafood-focused Greek cuisine.

by Michael J. Solender  |  photographs by Justin Driscoll

Few pleasures of the table satisfy so deeply as those served from Mediterranean kitchens. SouthPark gained a promising new entry late last year when Limani, a Greek-inspired Mediterranean bistro, opened in Phillips Place occupying the space once held by longtime culinary fixture Upstream. 

Diners who came to love the now departed stalwart, which closed in 2020 after a 20-year run, need not worry: Seafood once again stars on the plate at Limani, where it’s delivered with warm Greek hospitality in a stunningly reinvented space.

Quality ingredients and an emphasis on simplicity yield light, clean dishes that pop with flavor and showcase the deft yet subtle hand of Executive Chef M.J. Alam and his local culinary team. 

Acclaim for the New York-born upscale Mediterranean concept came soon after the opening of its flagship, Limani Roslyn, on Long Island in 2008. Success spawned a sister restaurant at Rockefeller Center in 2013, followed by an outpost last year in Boston’s tony Chestnut Hill. The Phillips Place location is the group’s first foray outside the Northeast. Proximity to SouthPark Mall and demand from local diners for a seafood-focused mainstay cemented the move, according to founder and owner Chris Spyropoulos.

Clockwise from top: Tomato salad, grilled octopus, and Limani chips; right image: Loup de Mer

Limani makes a bold first impression, with an open, airy and elegantly styled space. Bright and flowing, the contemporary-chic design first draws the eye to the 360-degree Greek marble-topped circular bar. Azure and beige tiled walls, soft blue furnishings and a soaring domed ceiling stretch toward the sky, lending to the room’s outdoor feel. There’s a coastal vibe, one meant to conjure an image of the harbor of Limani, Greece, a small portside village on the Strymonian Gulf of the Aegean and the restaurant’s namesake and inspiration.

Seafood shines at Limani, and the culinary team credits the quality and freshness of the ingredients — fish is flown in twice weekly, Alam says. “I don’t want to do too much with these ingredients as they are the main focus — I simply want to showcase their beauty.”

Left: Lamb chops; Right: Blood orange margarita

Bestseller Loup De Mer is a prime example: Mediterranean sea bass, served whole and head-on, is butterflied and finished with a simple ladolemono: Greek olive oil, lemon juice and briny capers that complement the sweet flesh. Accompanied by steamed cauliflower, broccoli and carrots, the dish sings in its simplicity. Meaty, earthy bigeye tuna offers a heartier lunch or dinner course. Sashimi-grade center-cut loin is encased with an Egyptian sesame crust, seared and served rare with sauteed spinach and a walnut puree. 

Flavor combinations don’t stray far from the traditional, with abundant touches of oregano, thyme, sea salt and garlic. But diners should not underestimate their magical alchemy when blended with care and married to their proteins in a quick dance over a smoky fire. Case in point is Limani’s grilled Tunisian octopus: Marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, red-wine vinegar and oregano, the mollusk is seared on the grill and served warm, bathed in ladolemono and paired with sweet red and yellow peppers. The dish is a showstopper, with tender, salty rings cut on the bias and mounded high. 

Left: Aphrodite; Right: Baklava

Lamb, a Greek specialty, is served as two thick chops with crispy fries. Carnivores find more to love with the Cowboy ribeye, sirloin, filet and pork chops, as well as an organic half bone-in chicken breast grilled and seasoned with fragrant rosemary and thyme. 

Limani chips — crispy-fried, wafer-thin eggplant and zucchini coins served alongside salty fried kefalograviera cheese and atop a mound of tzatziki — are a fine starter and good to nibble on while perusing the menu. Salty, sweet and tangy, these addictive chips pair nicely with a Greek beer or a glass of red Oenodea, a Greek cabernet/syrah blend. 

Sweet tooths will want to try Limani’s deconstructed baklava, a tower of caramelized, crisp-baked phyllo planks entombed in pistachio pastry cream, or karidopita, a walnut sponge cake served with honey lavender ice cream.  SP

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