Hanging in the dining room of Symposia, the new restaurant at the Atheneum Suite Hotel in Greektown, is a striking piece of art that captures the energy of a colorful, modern, and vibrant city. Crowds of people fill the streets of Detroit, with the skyline looming large in the back.
The piece is by St. Clair Shores-based Olon Interior, which designed the restaurant, inspired by the illustration “Standing People” by Japanese artist Tetsuo Aoki.
“It juxtaposes people, and then you can see the city of Detroit laid in the background,” says Atheneum Executive Officer Athina Papas, who adds that the work is representative of the vision behind Symposia: bringing people to Greektown and offering a unique dining experience. “It’s a nice tie-in to what we’re trying to do with bringing in different regions of Europe but also staying true to the city.”
The Papas family has been a fixture of the Greektown community for more than 40 years, having owned and operated Santorini Estiatorio, Mosaic, and of course, Pegasus Taverna. Symposia is a departure from the classic Greek fare they’re known for (but not unprecedented with Athina Papas helming the globally inspired hot spot Mosaic a few years ago), and it brings different flavor profiles from across the Mediterranean, from Greece, Italy, and Spain to northern Africa.
Chef Elliot Patti, who oversees the menu and culinary team at Atheneum, says the goal is to showcase different flavors of the Mediterranean that people may not be as familiar with. For example, by using two types of harissa, he’s highlighting flavors from North Africa.
“Morocco has had a huge influence on the world — not only on the Mediterranean but the entire world because of the spice trade. … There’s a lot to the Mediterranean that I think gets passed over when we’re just serving up hummus, which I love. But there’s so much more to [Mediterranean food].”
His culinary resume spans pretty much every facet of the restaurant and hospitality industry, from working in acclaimed kitchens such as those at three-star Michelin restaurant Alinea in Chicago and Spago under Wolfgang Puck to being a private chef for the likes of Miley Cyrus and Barbra Streisand to serving thousands of meals through fine-dining catering company Do & Co. He says these varying experiences have all culminated in the creation of Symposia’s menu.
Some of the signature dishes include roasted beets with whipped feta, pickled strawberry, and green harissa; Spanish octopus with romesco, Yukon potato, and chorizo Iberico; and Amish Half Bird, a playful take on Nashville hot chicken with harissa and creme fraiche.
There’s also the eye-catching briam, a casserole-like dish with tomato sauce and shingles of zucchini, potato, and onion accented with cinnamon, cumin, and oregano. It’s finished with cheese, parsley, and house-made preserved lemon. It looks like Remy’s ratatouille in the beloved Disney movie.
There are many personal touches on the menu. The pistachio torte on the dessert menu is an homage to Patti’s late father, who was Sicilian and loved pistachios, and Patti always makes sure there is a vegetarian dish on the menu for his mother in case she drops by from Hawaii (in addition to several vegetable dishes like the briam and roasted carrots, the olive oil cake with walnuts, orange, honey, and Greek yogurt has his mom’s name on it).
The wine list has been curated by Papas to match the fare. “When we looked at the list, we wanted it to be really reflective of the menu,” Papas says. “So offering a lot of European wines, but also still offering some California favorites.” The wine list highlights Spain and Greece, including a favorite of Papas’: Ktima Gerovassiliou Malagousia, a Greek white.
“It’s well rounded and has a balanced finish with a little bit of lemon peels and citrus in it. … It’s a really approachable wine, in the sense that it’s not too expensive [at $68 a bottle], but it’s something that’s different that you won’t see on every list.”
Papas says initially they thought about going in a Greek direction with Symposia. “There have been comments in the past about how Greektown isn’t Greek anymore. So that was a conversation in the back of our heads,” Papas says. “But we also wanted to add something unique to the area and have a very creative dining experience. We’re really excited about offering [Symposia] to the people and also adding it to the list of restaurants that you can come and visit when you visit Greektown.”
Symposia is located inside of the Atheneum Suite Hotel at 1000 Brush St., Detroit. Visit atheneumsuites.com/symposia for more information.
This story is from the January 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.