Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Athens Restaurant Reviews’ Category

Niko asks me: Why is Valentines Day so special? Can’t I get you roses and take you to dinner any night? He has accepted that I’m never giving up this cheesy holiday- I consider it one more excuse to be indulgent, and any excuse is a good excuse, right? I always respond with “well, go ahead and surprise me with flowers and a dinner then-any night of the week!” This past Saturday he did surprise me, and pre- Valentines weekend showed me that he can be romantic any non-special night of the year.

Ok, I will stop gushing and discuss the food!

We went to Pil Poul– a French-Mediterranean restaurant in a stunning neo-classical building in the lovely area of Thissio in Athens. We had been here once before (2 years ago) and then-chef Jerome Serress was just amazing. Really. Amazing. The best foie gras I’ve ever had- with a stawberry gelee molded over the foie…oh, my, succulence…

Now there is a new chef- Konstantino Athinagora. He is young and described on the website < http://www.pilpoul.gr > as an enthusiastic, passionate, creative chef. Among other awards, he’s been honored in Greece as a Golden Chef of 2009 by the Athens Chef Club.

I arrived sceptical because of my past wonderful experience with Serress’ cooking, and also because of the new chef’s youth! But I admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

But before I get to the food, I need to describe the scene. (I’m so disappointed I didn’t have my camera).

A car, taxi or metro will only take you so far into Thissio. You walk from the road onto cobble-stone like pathways and approach a grandiose, white building. It is both ornate and understated. You enter, and a host greets you at the door. He takes you up to the third floor on the terrace, to enjoy the stunning view of the lit Acropolis. Genial small talk ensues. Then you are taken to the second floor to be seated.  The tables are simple and elegant.

Pil Poul feels like a historical home- which, I think, it is. Everything feels very stately. Some of the art on the walls do not match with the tone of the place. However, the art is interesting.

I cannot shower enough praise over the host, the manager, the server, and the sommelier. Each were incredibly warm, gracious and accommodating.

We really felt spoiled. In a country where the notion of good service is fairly recent, and still spotty, we relished this. I couldn’t choose between a few wines and the sommelier let me taste all 4! He also poured me extra big glasses…Ah, the road to my heart!

We started by sharing sweetbreads with red wine sauce and thinly fried potato strings. The plate was gorgeous and the sweetbreads were melt-in-your-mouth tender and velvety. The potatoes were crunchy and added a nice play in texture.

Next we each had foie gras since we both love it and wouldn’t want to share! Two sliced were served  with a grape sauce and greens. I don’t know the word for these greens in English- they are the green you see in the water that are on top of rocks. If anyone knows the word for this, let me know! I was underwhelmed by this dish. Niko loved it. Mine was underseasoned and just did not possess the silky texture or exclamation of flavor that I usually enjoy from foie. Niko is easier to please I think. 🙂

For the main plates, Niko had pork and pancetta with a violet-mustard sauce and sweet potato mash with truffle oil. I didn’t try the pork, but Niko really enjoyed it. This is probably a good choice for people who don’t want to veer to far away from the Greek palate. But let me tell you! The sweet potato mash was phenomenally good. I have never had better mashed potatoes in my life. The truffle oil seemed to underscore all the earthy flavor of the potato as well as its sweet undertones. Excellent. I was eating it off Niko’s plate.

I had an excellent duck confit wrapped in a homemade pasta, with two pieces of ravioli stuffed with squash, in a bitter cocoa sauce. Also Excellent. Wow. I really did not want this dish to end.  When I said this, Niko smugly reminded me of how I chide him when he complains of small portions at gourmet restaurants.

The desserts were just OK. We got pistachio panacotta and Espresso Cream with Marscapone, with a Orange-Rosemary Sauce. They were fine, but forgettable.

I believe this is excellent value for money. We ordered a la carte, but the degustation menu is 60 per person. For the setting and experience (on top of the food) it is worth it.

They are having a menu on Valentines with a glass of champagne included for 70 euros. Even though weve made other plans…we are considering going!

Pil Poul

Hours 8:30-00:30

Located:Αποστόλου Παύλου 51 και Πουλοπούλου (Apostolou Pavlou 51 & Poulopoulou)

Number:210 3423665

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

-3

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.

-11

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.

-9

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.

-8

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.

-7

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.

-5

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.

-2

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!

-12

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.

-1

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!

-13

Read Full Post »

DSCF0674

Varoulko is the first restaurant in Greece years ago to be awarded a Michelin star. The chef Lefteris Lazarou was raised preparing seafood with his father on a galley boat on the port of Piraeus. He has elevated local seafood with Greek ingredients and ingenious creativity. I have seen him in interviews on Greek TV and he also seems incredibly kind.

This restaurant has been highly recommended from my dear friend Maria, and I finally got to try it this summer on my birthday…and then again in September for my mother’s birthday. Yes, it is that good.

The second meal with my mother is the one I discuss below.

Varoulko, during warm or mildly cool months has outdoor seating in a modern setting with a view of the Acropolis lit in a warm golden-orange light. The servers are all warm, accommodating, and enthusiastic about the food.

The picture posted above is, I know, out of focus, but I love it. Maybe it evokes the dazzling, dizzying joy I had with each course. 🙂  This was an amuse-bouche presented in an eggshell: a Tarama (fish-roe) Sabayon. Velvety, smooth, rich, with a subtle salty aftertaste.

Once seated, the manager or head server offers a 4 course tasting meal. However, you can choose to eat a-la-carte. Since I had been there before, I kept two new dishes that sounded great, and replaced the other two with ones I had my first time, that I wanted to have again. They were obliging. I also ordered a glass of Chablis.

IMG_0694

This dish was an incredible first induction to the meal. Lump Crab Salad with carrots, red pepper and thin, sparse strands of seaweed, topped with a Mandarin-Lemon thick foam. It was not as mustard-y looking as it does in this picture. We were instructed by the server to mix the foam thoroughly with the crab before eating.

IMG_0695

I wish I could transport the exclamation of mandarin and lemon aromas that emanated from this dish once mixed. This was an unexpected surprise that called to mind the idea behind this blog: Food Synaesthesia- the overlap of all senses for a transcendent experience. I know this may seem like a lot of hype for a seemingly simple dish, but it really was wonderful. I dreaded the sight of just a few bites left on the plate.

DSCF0675

The dish that followed did not disappoint, but wasn’t awe-inspiring. Thin slices of Red Snapper in a Toast Crust with Eggplant Puree and Raspberry Sauce.

The fish was fresh and the toast crust was satisfyingly buttery and salty. The eggplant puree had a silky smooth texture. It was appropriately mild in flavor as a balance to the salty fish. There wasn’t much raspberry sauce on the plate to see how those flavors would meld. I enjoyed it and it was a good portion.

DSCF0676

The third plate actually managed to out-do the experience of the crab! Langoustine Orzo Risotto. The Langoustine was tender, and the orzo risotto was creamy but firm instead of mushy. Each bite was just a firecracker of flavor. I will try as long as it takes to re-create this recipe at home! I kept asking them exactly what ingredients were in the dish, and they told me (other than the orzo and langoustine) that there was sweet Moschato wine, parmesan, and parsley. However, I’m sure that there was also a very strong langoustine or lobster stock involved as well.

IMG_0698

Though the final dish did not out-do the Langoustine, it was beautiful, inventive, and with great flavor: Braided Fish with Fava Puree and Octopus Sauce. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the fish. Unacceptable, I know, but I can’t remember!

The braiding had a function beyond its beauty; it also created its own nice texture. The fava puree was creamy like silky mashed potatoes, but with the great bean taste. The octopus sauce really didnt taste like octopus, but was a nice almost syrupy tart-sweet flavor.  My mother and I both really enjoyed this dish.

DSCF0680

DSCF0681

The desserts were equally impressive as the savory plates. The chocolate souffle with espresso sauce was nice and bitter (the more espresso drizzled, the more bitter it became) and I like my chocolate bitter! But the mint strawberry mille feuille stole the show. The layers were not puff pastry, but rather like a mint caramel crisp. The cream was vanilla infused and the strawberry syrup was definitely made from fresh wild strawberries as promised by the menu! Just excellent. The taste of mint was pronounced and paired with the strawberry wonderfully.

Some chefs like Thomas Keller prefer to offer many dishes that give you just a taste and leave you wanting more. I do enjoy this sometimes, and appreciate the experience. However, I loved that the portions at Varoulko were substantial. Though we had a five course meal, it was satisfying to have more than a few tastes of each dish to really relish in the flavors. And I still was left wanting more.

Here is a recipe from Mr. Lazarou from his book: Varoulko: Colors, Smells and Tastes

SEA URCHIN RISOTTO

Serves 4

(If you cant find enough sea urchin, mix in some regular fish roe)


1 cup diced yellow onion, 1/8” dice
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Freshly crushed white peppercorns
1 cup Arborio rice
4 – 5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh sea urchin roe, carefully cleaned of all spines and grit, divided

Sauté the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly crushed white peppercorns, in olive oil until they soften and start to turn golden. Stir in the rice to completely coat it with oil and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine, and stir until it’s almost absorbed. Add 1/2 cup stock and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the stock is almost absorbed. Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring while its absorbed, until the risotto is the consistency you desire; it should be moist and creamy, not dry. It takes about 18 – 20 minutes for the rice to cook.

When the rice is just done, stir in 1/4 cup sea urchin roe, and divide the risotto between 4 warmed plates. Make a shallow hollow in the center of each portion, and fill it with the remaining sea urchin roe, evenly divided.

Serve immediately.

It tastes like sea-butter, please don’t be afraid to try sea urchin!

Read Full Post »

IMG_0417

I’m sorry I haven’t updated in so long! I have been traveling within Athens and a few Greek islands.  The next few blogs will celebrate the amazing meals I had along the way.

Let me start with Lambros, where my parents and boyfriend Niko celebrated my birthday a few weeks ago  for a long lunch. Driving down Poseidonos road with the sea to our right, we veered onto the unraveled parking lot and stepped into familiar food ground.

Each summer my family arrived from the States, my godparents would bring us to this seafood restaurant.  The space bears a warm, understated elegance.  Within a wooden structure, the best patio tables are shaded and platformed over the sea with linen tableclothes.

We would order a huge grilled fresh fish drizzled with lado-lemono (lemon olive oil mix). I am a rare specimen here who prefers my fish plain- maybe with a few drops of lemon. I think the olive oil is too overpowering and you can’t taste the sea or freshness anymore of the fish.

At the top is a picture I took of a fillet slice of our fish, which was as usual very fresh and grilled to perfection.

Surprisingly though, the side dishes we ordered seemed to steal the show!

Let me start with the favorite at the table: Sea Urchin Salad (Achinosalata)

IMG_0407

Please do not be put off by the idea of sea urchin. Honestly, it is the foie gras of the sea…The texture is not as slimy as it looks. It is actually more like silk- a melting sensation of salt water and buttery richness. Phenomenal. Here is a perfect example of how a few simple ingredients prepared well can be better than any overworked plate.

When I was younger, my Uncle Mike, cousin Sophia and I used to swim out in the sea with a small knife and eat fresh sea urchin from the rocks. Uncle Mike would slice it in half, and all I remember is a bright red-orange color and a taste of the sea.

I think the salad is not made up of much else! It seems to have a drizzle of oil and dash of lemon, although I am not exactly sure. I plan to find out!

We also had small fried barbounia, (red mullet), and huge grilled shrimp. Here is a picture of my mom instructing me to suck on the shrimp heads. I did, and I appreciated the strong flavor, but I just wanted more sea urchin to be honest…:)

IMG_0412

I prefer the red mullet small like this and incredibly yummy:

IMG_0416

My father was spending half the meal scooping his roquefort dressing over the arugula on his plate. It was nice that they retained the crumbly texture of the cheese. It was also creamy but not dilluted by too much mayo or creme fraiche or sour cream etc.

This was one of my top dining experiences of the summer. I was proud of my parents for sitting and enjoying for over 3 hours! They usually like to get up immediately after the meal, American style!

IMG_0413

IMG_0414

In my next blogs I will have recipes available so you can taste some of the flavors I enjoyed so much the past month…

I will also be returning soon with several other Santorini and Athens restaurant reviews, discussion of Karpathian food, and recipes!

And coming up later is a  little Greek-French fusion….

Read Full Post »

AIOLI 4

My cousin Sophia and I went out last night to this lovely neighborhood restaurant in Glyfada.
The atmosphere is intimate and warm. There is patio seating surrounded by greenery. One tree is lit with delicate white lights. We sat inside because after window shopping for a few hours in the sun we needed some air conditioning. But most seats inside have a pleasant view of the outside. It’s a good choice for a romantic date.

I like the understated small touches used to decorate the interior: oil and vinegar in old fashioned bottles, and arched brick inset into the wall. Here is a picture:

main

First, let me apologize. I forgot to take pictures of the food. I’ll try to describe everything as best as possible.

We started with an amuse bouche, which was a deep fried chicken meatball with a paprika mayonnaise sauce. The chicken was overcooked and a bit dry, but was still tasty.

The bread was not hot, but also still flavorful and probably baked earlier that day. There was a lemon garlic butter spread as well as an herbed chopped tomato spread. Both were flavorful.

We started with a salad: A green salad with sliced French goat cheese and a light orange vinaigrette.

Well, goat cheese is always tasty, and you can’t go wrong there, but the vinaigrette disappointed me because there wasn’t a trace of orange flavor. It tasted like a basic oil vinegar blend. Why do restaurants think they can serve something different than what the menu states without customers noticing?

Our entrees however, were excellent! Sophia had a steak with orzo risotto and sliced carrots and zucchini. Her steak was so incredibly tender, and cooked exactly as she asked for it: Medium, with a nice cool pink center. I’m impressed with a restaurant in Greece that makes beef so tender and does not overcook the meat! The orzo risotto was creamy but didn’t taste heavy. It had a light parmesan flavor and was just perfectly done. Again, the orzo was not overcooked. Neither were the vegetables! I can’t eat vegetables when they are cooked to mush.

I didn’t just eat off of Sophia’s plate, I also ate off of mine! I had a lobster ravioli with shrimp sauce. They were not skimpy with the lobster portion inside the ravioli, and it was really tender. I could tell they used seafood stock in the sauce, along with some tomato and parsley and a tiny dash of cream. Very simple, and very tasty.

Unfortunately they had run out of the pavlova with strawberry dessert by the time we got there. We ordered the chocolate souffle. It was more like lava cake, because it was denser than a real airy souffle should be, but still had a rich chocolate flavor and satisfying gooey center. I could tell that they used good quality chocolate- a mix of dark and milk I think. Not sickeningly sweet.

The service was fine. One server was a little cold, the other was very friendly. But no one was rude or off-putting.

Overall I would recommend this restaurant for a romantic meal, or a meal with friends. While the quality of dishes is a little inconsistent, when it is good-its very good. It’s easily one of the better restaurants in Glyfada.

It is open every night of the week, only for dinner.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars!

(30-50 per person, without drinks)

Read Full Post »