Posts Tagged ‘athens’

The old tavern of psaras (Erotokritou ke Erechtheos 16, Athina 105 56, Phone: +30 21 0321 8733) is located in the very touristy area of Plaka

If you meet someone complaining about plaka’s  food been touristy, he is certainly not wrong, but then he needs to eat at places like the old tavern of psaras. The  food, here,  is genuinely Greek. 

I discovered this tavern after a joke with a local. I argued with him that Plaka was the worst place for a foodie. He responded that I needed to try the old tavern of psaras, and that I should let him know how things went.

The tavern is situated at the top of a flight of stairs of Plaka, in an area called anafiotika. 

Feta cheese ravasaki – the folks at Fato o Mano should come here and have a taste of how grilled feta cheese, sesame seeds and honey does rarely fail in the hands of the Greeks. An example of a benchmark feta cheese ravasaki (dazzling flavours, superb ingredients). 10/10

Boiled octopus in vinegar and olive oil – loved the rustic presentation. they do not go rustic because tourists are looking for that. The cooking is rustic because it is genuinely traditional. big pieces of semi firm octopus (the texture I grew up to consider as the right one, in the fishermen village of the Indian Ocean where i was born), with a good chew. Superb maritime flavour and exquisite seasoning. 9/10

Baked Chicken in lemon is very Mediterranean and, of course, very Greek. Delicious traditional sauce, the quality chicken cooked expertly. This is one of my preferred classic Greek / Mediterranean dishes and although not a dish that is hard to execute, I cannot say that it has always been as great as this one that they made at the OToP. Excellent 9/10

Fava purée- after the refined versions at R41 and Argo, I was ready for a rustic rendition of the Fava purée, which is what the OToP offers. Another successful traditional dish 7/10

Overall food rating: 9/10 Flawless traditional Greek cuisine. To the local who has recommended the old tavern of psaras, you know your food really well, buddy! 

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Mykonos was exactly like in the postal cards. No one will argue with you if you saw better island in your life, but Mykonos was as pretty as the hype wants you to believe. It was about the exact same omnipresent whitewashed houses, colorful doors, and eye candy waterfronts that we can all see in the ads. If you like beaches and whitewashed houses, there you go. 

I stayed at Platis Gialos, to enjoy both its beach as well as its restaurants (it is a beach area with an effective night life, mini food markets, spas, etc). Its beach does not have the soft white sand of some of the islands of the carribean, but it is very clean, its golden sand and blue water certainly easy on the eyes.

At Platis Gialos, I paid a visit to 3 of their most popular restaurants: Nikos Gallop, Yialo Yialo as well as Avli Tou Thodori. Avli was the best of the trio, followed by Yialo. As for Nikos, my meal, there, will not help you to understand its popularity. The effect of the free drink they offer to their patrons, at the end of the meal, could, perhaps, better explain that exploit (of being popular).

At 15 mins drive from Platis Gialos, you will find Mykonos town. From some angles, its waterfront is very easy on the eyes, although, to be fair, some parts of it is also utterly ugly. Regardless, this town deserves a detour while you are on the island. In Mykonos town, I ate at the very popular Fato o Mano, which I reviewed here.

All in all, Mykonos being touristy, one might expect average food. In that regard, Avli and Yialo fought back and proved that a touristy location can offer serious cooking too. I learned, while I was there, that Avli and Yialo are not alone, in that fight, as at  least 10 other restaurants are cooking food that are superior to what most of the local restaurants are offering. If that is true, Good, then, for Mykonos.

From the beaches of Mykonos, I took a ferry for a stopover in Santorini, the other famous island of Greece. 

The hype, there, is on such things such as the fabled caldera views with its sunset, the emblematic blue domes, particularly the mother of all blue domes, the one of the city of oia. All of them will be as impressive as your imagination will want them to be, but please do not be too picky about the blue domes…they are just blue domes and it is certainly not their fault if our imagination have elevated them to what they can’t be.

Imagination, overhype, it does not matter: Santorini worths a detour. They just have to work on their 3rd world airport, an airport that is simply a shame by western standards (poorly trained staff that are as confused as the system they are working for). 

In Santorini, I ate at Argo  as well as Ouzeri, two of their best restaurants in the capital city of Fira. Argo  has a Chef whose cooking was almost as amazing as watching the nearby caldera view. Ouzeri was on par as far as food is concerned. I also tried Restaurant 41 on the beach of Perivolos, reviewed here.

That Santorini had its caldera views marketed  as one of  the things to see once in your life,  virtually anyone who did not live under a rock … got that. But who knew that such a touristy location could hide great kitchen brigades such as the ones of Argo, Ouzeri, and many more. 

My last stop was in Athens. 

Historically, Athens is, obviously, a giant. But it also has a beautiful coastline that is easy to access using public transportation. 

In Athens, do what the tourist trapping advertisements are suggesting: stay in central Athens in the vincinity of Plaka. As a tourist, you will be trapped, anyways, so you may as well get the most out of it.

Outside of Athens, if the gorgeous mountainous landscapes on your way to Delphi does not seduce, then you know you are in an advanced stage of personal depression. 

Delphi will stun you as much as you love mountains and are a fan of the oracle, the twins of argos, apollo, etc…obviously, and for someone like me who qualifies as a fan of all of that, I certainly did not leave the site in a bad mood.

The signs that tourism is their bread and butter are numerous: well maintained buses for tourists, plenty of areas thought for tourists (Plaka, is an example), a subway system that is as easy to navigate as it is easy on the eyes, roads in great condition as well as an effort to post signs in english/french at some touristic sites. 

In Athens, I ate at the old tavern of Psaras, as well as Manas Kouzina-Kouzina. At the former, some Greek families were eating next to tourists, and I hope the tourists did realize that they were eating true traditional Greek food, done really well, because the Greek families felt like eating at home. The old tavern cooks superb Greek food. As for Manas Kouzina-Kouzina, I suspect it is not bad at all. I mentioned “I suspect it is not bad”…for reasons explained here. I also ate at taverna vizantino, which seemed to think that, because it is in a touristy area, where people just pass by, it can serve whatever it wants to people.  That shameful meal  is reviewed here. 

For North Americans: keep in mind that patrons at restaurants  are allowed to smoke on the terrace, but not inside. So you know where to sit if you want your food not to smell of smoke..

Vizantino taverna (18 Kydatheneon Street, Plaka, Athens Phone +30 21 0322 7368)
Stumbled upon this  taverna of Plaka while walking in Plaka.

Spinach cheese pie – not freshly baked, meaning reheated, consequently hard and dry

Veal with eggplant – delicious eggplant, delicious sauce BUT The meat was reheated, therefore…again, it was dry … and could not  taste as meaty as it should have been. 

Lamb lemon sauce – at first, it was available. Then 5 minutes later, it was not …anymore. Therefore, they asked if I would like some grilled lamb, instead, which I agreed on, only to discover that … even the grilled lamb …they managed to  reheat it…!!

Cooked to order is a notion they have heard of, at Vizantino …

Overall food rating: 0/10 Dear cooks at vizantino, how would you feel if reheated food was served to you at a restaurant? Chances are that you would find it insulting and you would confront the restaurant staff. I happen to be well behaved and I do not go to restaurants to confront anyone, but ….by respect to the hard work of the honest workers of the restaurant industry, I hope that  words will spread so that you start realizing  that what you would not accept to be fed on…well, you SHOULD NOT feed people with it.   Yes, you are popular, but in an instance like this, what I could not fail to observe is that there were just tourists at your restaurant, which, btw.. should not be an excuse …for a serious restaurant, I mean…to serve reheated food – On the back of this meal, you do not seem interested to be a serious restaurant. You are an insult to the hard working and proud professionals that I have met all along this trip in Greece, namely the folks at Argo, the Old tavern of Psaras, Avli Tou Thodori, To Ouzeri, Yialo Yialo, all true restaurant  professionals who are located in places far more beautiful and touristy than the “slum village” corner of Plaka where you are operating and could have rested on their laurels because tourists would flock to their restaurants, anyways,  but  herein lies the difference between you and them: they are professionals. You are not.

Manas  Kouzina-Kouzina (27 Eolou st, Agias Irinis square, phone: 30 210 3252 335) was on my way while I was taking a walk nearby. 

They cook food from all across Greece. I was there at 5pm, and at that time, what was available was basically precooked / reheated buffet food that was left from lunch. In the evening, you have a proper a la carte menu with freshly cooked food.

I picked a moussaka, which was less heavy on the stomach than your usual mom and pop moussaka, but it was a delicious moussaka, done well. This was a legit version of the moussaka, which deserved a better faith than being served reheated.

A cheese pie that I am sure would have pleased much more than the  reheated version I was having. 

A piece of feta cheese revealed a sense of careful sourcing. 

Overall food rating: 0/10. There is no other rating for reheated food and I can rate only what I ate. That said, Manas Kouzina-Kouzina was not dishonest (as they clearly mentioned that if I wanted the A la carte freshly cooked food, it was available later on in the evening), and their reheated food left me with the impression that the “real freshly cooked thing”, in the evening, has the potential to not be that bad at all. I will return in the evening to try their a la carte freshly cooked food in the evening.