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