The best places to eat are those with soul. Miami-based restaurant Mandolin Aegean Bistro has so much, you'll want to stay forever, and this Spring owner Anastasia Koutsioukis is opening up a completely new destination—MrsMandolin.
THERE'S A REASON why great meals become great memories. It’s not just because of the food (although it plays a huge part), but mainly it's the atmosphere, the service, and the smallest details. The ability to capture the feeling of a Sunday meal shared with your closest friends and family on a beautiful beach is exactly what Anastasia Koutsioukis and her husband Ahmet Erkaya achieved with Mandolin Aegean Bistro, their white washed Greek restaurant in Miami. Rather than follow traditional restaurant trends, the pair decided to follow their instincts. Mandolin has the same quaint appearance as a neighborhood restaurant and a preference for authentic, wholesome dishes made from fresh picked produce, such as artisanal honey and locally grown olives, served with warm loaves of freshly baked bread.
Opened in late 2009, the restaurant quickly became a hit. Coupled with traditional Aegean cuisine, “it’s more a place where people feel comfortable to eat and stay for a while, like a friend’s house,” says Koutsioukis, are impeccable details and a charming atmosphere.
"food has allowed me to explore cultures, meet new people and forge long lasting relationships."
The table arrangements, which Koutsioukis makes herself, often feature handmade ornaments like Greek serving spoons and olive leaf sprigs, and have solidified Mandolin as a must-visit destination in Miami. The instantly endearing space also caught the attention of Nick Jones, the founder of Soho House. In 2015 the restaurant partnered with the Miami Soho Beach House, converting the seaside restaurant into ‘Mandolin Beach,’ a space reminiscent of a seaside tavern complete with rustic tables. Now Mandolin has outposts in Soho Houses around the world, including Istanbul, with new locations opening at the London and Berlin Soho Houses in April. For Koutsioukis, who was an executive at LVMH before deciding to open a restaurant with her restaurateur husband, Mandolin's location was love at first sight.The duo stumbled upon the space in 2009 and were instantly compelled to open up a restaurant, following their instincts to create a destination that embodied everything they enjoyed from their homelands: good food, great company, and a beautiful setting.
Since opening, the space has expanded from 30 to 150 seats and taken over an adjacent empty lot, where organic vegetables and herbs are grown. In July, Mandolin will expand again, with the addition of a brand new space, ‘MrsMandolin.’ For Koutsioukis, whose creativity and incredibly warm spirit have created a cult following around Mandolin, this new outpost is a combination of her greatest joys: food, friends, and beautiful things.
"cooking is an expression of love and around a table we open up and share stories."
“MrsMandolin is the evolution of what 'mandolin' meant to me,” she says. “Food became my vehicle to meet and gather with interesting, like-minded people. Cooking is an expression of love and around a table we open up and share stories.” MrsMandolin will combine a coffee and small bites counter, market, and store. Somewhere you can meet a friend for breakfast, pick up some artisanal honey and olives, buy flowers for your home and a gift for your friend. “What I'm inspired by is that food has allowed me to explore cultures, meet new people and forge long lasting relationships. It's a universal common denominator. I love to host and bring people together and create beautiful memorable experiences. Through Mandolin I discovered how small the world is and I look to find other Mandolin-like places while I travel. A place that holds no rules, that tells a unique story and that exudes passion for what they do. MrsMandolin is our lifestyle. How we choose to live. It's about our love for our Mediterranean heritage, its history and culture, honoring simple recipes and the Aegean, where we long to be; our longing for summertime and the sea and the laid back bohemian lifestyle that comes with it.”
1. What do you eat for breakfast?
Sprouted multigrain toast with a smear of avocado, sea salt, smoky Aleppo pepper and a cup or two of coffee. If it's Sunday I'll make scrambled eggs with feta.
2. What was your last dream about?
Last night I dreamt that Alexander (my two year old), and I were walking through fields holding wicker baskets filled with veggies.
3. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Obviously I'd want to be able to make this world a kinder place, end hunger, human trafficking and inequality to start. I don't know what to call that super power because that seems like a collective effort. On another far-fetched note, it would be great to have the power to just snap my fingers and my room would be tidy, laundry done, and all my clothes hung and closets organized.
4. What is your spirit animal?
I'd say a cat. I'm more independent and curious. I'm loving and affectionate but I need my space.
5. What is your greatest creative achievement?
It would be our restaurant, Mandolin. We started as a 30 seat restaurant and after six and a half years have expanded our brand with other locations but we're still growing and learning everyday.
6. If you could swap lives with anyone in history (alive or dead), who would it be?
I wouldn't want to, not because it's perfect but because it's mine. I admire so many people and their accomplishments but I still wouldn't want their life. It's amazing to think we have the power to achieve anything we want in our own life if we work hard enough for it. We take that for granted.
7. What is your favorite song?
Love song by The Cure.
8. Favorite artists?
Egon Schiele, Cy Twombly and William de Kooning changed the way I looked at art from a young age. They're all masters.
9. If you could wear one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Jeans and a striped top or a caftan if I never left the house.
10. Any hidden talents?
Well some say I'm a pretty decent cook (wink) and if you find me the right dance partner, I can burn a hole in your rug.