As you can see, Niko and I were pleased at the end of our meal, clinking our complimentary after dinner drink. 🙂 Please ignore the chipped nail polish.
On a lazy Saturday, I decided I was in the mood to try a new restaurant and Niko offered to take me anywhere I wished. I’d heard a lot about Ta Kioupia, a restaurant in Kolonaki known for upscale Greek food and also for its quantity of food! The creative cuisine appeals to me, and the great big portions appealed to my dining partner.
The taxi dropped us in front of a neo-classical, white corner building. Upon entering, we were led up a flight of stairs by smiling staff, and seated in a romantic table by the french windows, overlooking the lovely neighborhood. I was impressed by the decor. Nothing garish, clean lines and symmetrically arranged charcoal drawings. I think it was the best table in the space. This is a setting not only for couples, but also groups of friends, and business dinners.
Ta Kioupia means ceramic pots. Some of the framed drawings were of “Kioupia” from an older time. This artistic choice underscores the balance of sophistication and tradition. I appreciated the overall impression of chic yet warm, homey dining. In fact, this is the angle of the famous New York restaurant Craft: upscale family dining with shared plates. Celebrating and re-inventing traditional dishes.
The server explained to us that we could order a la carte or pay one set price for the chef’s selection of 11 dishes. We wanted the real Kioupia experience, and ordered the 11 dish menu. We were informed the courses begin with a soup. Niko turned to me after the server left with a disapproving look. “You can eat my soup, I don’t want soup.” Niko basically wants meat all the time. I responded with an annoyed glance, knowing that I would encourage him to try it, and that he would probably like it. And he did! We both did.
The soup was beef broth with several herbs, veggies, and halloumi cheese. There was parsley, pepper, mint, lemon…The halloumi cheese, which usually has an almost plastic texture, melted in your mouth. It was the best preperation of halloumi I have ever encountered. This soup was light and brothy, but depthfully flavored and comforting.
The next course offered a wonderful surprise. Our eggplant salad (melitzanosalata) was assembled in front of us before serving! The eggplant was freshly grilled on charcoal. Olive oil, white vinegar, and a “secret sauce” was added to the vegetable and mixed together. In the sauce I tasted tahini and lemon, and I’m not sure what else was incorporated.
I almost didn’t post this picture of the eggplant salad because it’s not very pretty and does not do justice to the incredible flavor. I have eaten eggplant salad my whole life in a million different places, and it has Never tasted like this. The tahini, lemon, vinegar, olive oil ratio was perfect. I couldn’t put my finger on what the transcendant factor was. The ingredients tasted familiar, but it was certainly very special.
Fresh and warm pita bread accompanied our meal to scoop up all the dips. They also brought a bean dip with caramelized mandarin slices. This was wonderful, and in each bite the mandarin added such a bright dimension to the bean flavor. There should have been a bigger portion other than the 7 slices offered, because without it the flavor was a little boring.
We were also served salad with a rich honey vinaigrette that was great. They gave us a huge portion of the salad and we barely ate half because there were so many other distractions.
This lemon pork dish is a traditional Greek meal. There was not much innovation here, but it was not necessary. I ate very little of it, because I was already getting full and we weren’t yet halfway through! Niko relished it and finished it quickly.
The meatballs were a mutual favorite for us. They were so tender that they melted in your mouth. (This is the second melting sensation after the halloumi!) The seasoning was perfect, the mint, onion and parsley flavored the meat well, and the tomato sauce was divine. I definitely think they put butter in their sauce. I could have eaten them all myself, but I was fair and shared.
There were a few dishes that were not so great. There was a lasagna-like dish filled with an orange flavored minced meat mixture. The meat was nice, but the homemade lasagna layers were too thick and incredibly dry. After 8 “appetizer” courses, we were each offered a choice of a meat dish from a short list. I chose a medium rare steak and Niko chose pork chops. They were both good. Just good. Nothing phenomenal here. And it really wasn’t necessary since there were so many other great dishes that were so filling.
But the night ended on an absolutely glorious note! Two great desserts! Mille-feuille and Kataifi Ice-Cream!
The mille-feuille is a new addition to the menu. The servers were very curious to see what we thought, since the chef is experimenting with new recipes. It was fluffy and creamy and tasty, but the Katifi Ice Cream stole the show. I think the server was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t as impressed with the Mille-Feuille. This indicated to me how much pride and care there was for the quality of the food.
From a massive bowl of ice cream brought upstairs, we were served two scoops on each plate. It was incredible. Katifi is a traditional Greek pastry, made with honey, cinnamon, almond, cloves, and kataifi, which is similar to angel hair pasta. It tasted just like this pastry, but in ice cream form. We ended the meal on a very high note.
Overall we enjoyed ourselves and were pleased. I do have a few criticisms. Why do they bring so many of the dishes all at once? Because the point is to share dishes family style, I don’t think they should be served one at a time. But two at a time would have been better. There is so much food that it is important to take your time, and when they bring 4-5 dishes after the soup, it is overwhelming. It made me feel that we had to eat quickly because some dishes were hot and would have cooled.
My second criticism is that the restaurant seems to choose quantity over quality. There were two dishes that were just average, and one (the orange flavored ground beef in layered thick pasta) that was dry and unsuccessful. Either they should have 11 WOW dishes, or cut it down to the 8 wow dishes they already have. Quality over quantity.
These are small gripes, however. Several dishes are just excellent. And I appreciate the efforts of the chef to experiment and play with traditional Greek plates. I would go back just for the soup, eggplant, meatballs, and kataifi ice cream.
This restaurant also offers great value for money. For 43 euros each you get so much food, including desserts. The wine list is reasonably priced. The atmosphere is elegant and refined. The service is faultless. Enjoy!
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