Chef Pano I. Karatassos dazzles the Atlanta Best Media team at his Buckhead restaurant, Kyma
By Katherine Sauceda
Chef Pano I. Karatassos has loved to cook for as long as he can remember. The first dish he ever made with pride was a quadruple-stacked peanut butter and jelly sandwich for his brother, Niko, at age 4. When their mother woke up, the kitchen was a mess and the boys were covered with the sticky spreads. As a child, Karatassos loved watching Yiayia (“grandmother” in Greek) prepare traditional Grecian dishes like Youvetsi, an orzo pasta with braised lamb shanks. In the ’80s and ’90s, Karatassos witnessed his father, Pano Karatassos, take the Atlanta culinary scene by storm and create the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, which includes notable eateries such as Chops Lobster Bar and Atlanta Fish Market.
Karatassos’ career blossomed with formal chef training from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in 1996. Under the tutelage of influential chefs, like Thomas Keller of The French Laundry (a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant), Karatassos honed his skills in the kitchen. His path came full circle in 2001 when he returned to his fine dining roots in Atlanta to open Kyma, the Hellenic word for “wave.” The contemporary Greek restaurant specializes in mezes, meaning appetizers, and is meant to showcase the beautiful foods of Greece in a high-end setting mimicking the color scheme associated with swoon-worthy islands like Santorini. The Atlanta Best Media team recently had the pleasure of experiencing Karatassos’ culinary creations first hand.
During our 10-course tasting, restaurant mainstays prepared with Karatassos’ new line of extra-virgin olive oil and olives graced our table, including the Grilled Octopus and whole fish Lavraki. The journey began with roasted oysters topped with a Champagne emulsion and caviar, paired to perfection with a glass of Amalia Brut sparkling wine with peach and pear notes. The Calamari Pasta had us all whipping out our phones because we could not miss this Instagram-worthy plate. Thin-sliced calamari resembling pasta and sautéed vegetables beautifully sat in a ceramic bowl painted with a saffron yogurt spread on the inside. Though it looked like a work of art, we quickly dug in while learning that as one scoops the “pasta” out of the bowl, you should run the spoon along the inside of the bowl to capture the smooth yogurt coating the dish. No meal at Kyma would be complete without Karatassos’ Lamb Pie. The moment you take a bite of the coiled phyllo pie stuffed with lamb on top of a thick spiral of Greek yogurt, it is easy to conclude how this dish led to Karatassos’ victory against Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s hit show, “Beat Bobby Flay” this past August.
Our culinary journey drew to a close with the Blueberry Galo pastry accompanied by a dollop of mahlepi ice cream. Per Karatassos’ recommendation, it was paired with a dessert wine made with the unique Malagouzia grape, which was once nearly extinct, for extra sweetness. You might not be fortunate enough to have this executive chef’s masterpieces on your table every night, but you can do your best to imitate them. Karatassos put his passion to paper with “Modern Greek Cooking,” his inaugural cookbook dedicated to authentic, approachable meals. But if you don’t feel like whipping up a recipe at home, simply make a reservation at Kyma and Karatassos will be happy to do the cooking for you.
Details: 3085 Piedmont Rd., Atlanta;