Greece – A Culinary Experience

Greek Cuisine is as old as the Greeks, in fact the very word gastronomy is derived from Greek. The first cook book was written by Archestratos in 330 BC, so they sure know how to eat 🙂 . Three essentials for enjoying a Greek meal , first start your meal with the practice of papara which involves dunking your bread in olive oil and tasting it, second order a drink of either Greek wine or Ouzo to go with your meal and third order a fresh salad, the vegetables and fruits grown in Greece have a special flavour which needs to be sampled raw. We went on a Greek Holiday in July 2017, and here are some of the best places where we enjoyed Greek Cuisine …Kali Orexi

ATHENS

Restaurants in Plaka Area

Plaka is a tourist area in Athens that is full of Restaurants claiming to serve “Authentic” Greek Cuisine. We had the chance to try out a few of them, they are tourist friendly, affordable and a good place to sample Greek fast food/street food. We don’t remember their names as they were all in Greek!

Plaka Restaurant

Apart from the Greek Salad, some of the best dishes we had here were:

Moussaka is a traditional Greek Pie. The top is gooey cheese, followed by layer upon layer of minced meat, cheese and egg plant in that order. While I enjoyed it, for some (like my wife Kritika), the flavour of eggplant gets too overpowering!

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Moussaka

Cheese Croquettes are also a popular snack in these joints. What makes them interesting is the combination of the outer crust that is fried golden brown but thin and flaky while the inside has the slightly sour Greek cheese , raw and crumbly. Definitely worth a try.

Laka Restaurant 1
Cheese Croquettes

There are also traditional meat dishes with either rice or potatoes on the side. We tried meatballs with rice and suckling pig with potato wedges. Both were quite decent but nothing extraordinary.

Meatropoleos 3 Restaurant

As the name suggests , this one is for the meat lovers, specialising in wraps. It is situated in the Syntagma square area of Athens and you can spot both tourists and locals sinking their teeth into grilled meats.

For starters we ordered the Grilled Bread with fresh tomatoes and Cretan skimmed milk cheese along with the favourite drink of the Greeks-Ouzo. The perfectly grilled bread with the tangy flavour of freshly cut tomatoes sprinkled with pungent Cretan cheese & pickle made it a superb dish.

Meatropolis Bread
Grilled Bread with Fresh Tomatoes and Cretan Skimmed Milk Cheese

For main course, we tried the Gyro which is very close in taste to the Middle Eastern Shawarma. It is a wrap made of pita bread , containing juicy strips of slow roasted chicken/lamb/pork with lettuce, onions, mayonnaise and pickles. On the other hand, Ouzo is unlike any other alcoholic drink I have tasted before, its deceptively sweet and even a couple of glasses can pack quite a punch.

Meatropolis Gyro
Gyro Wrap

Metropolis Roof Garden – Electra Metropolis

Electra Metropolis is the hotel where we stayed in Athens. It had a fine dine restaurant on the top floor called the Metropolis Roof Garden, along with a fabulous view of the Acropolis,

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View of the Acropolis from the Metropolis Roof Garden

The Roof Garden restaurant also doubled up as the morning breakfast joint. The breakfast here was awesome, apart from the standard English breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, roast potatoes and European breakfast of yoghurt, croissant, fresh cut fruits, and cold cut ham there were interesting Greek pies too. We tried the spinach pie and the cream pie. Both the pies had a crunchy outer crust and a soft delectable core, but the cream pie won our hearts.

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Breakfast

Dinner at the roof garden is also a grand (and expensive) affair with the who’s who of Athens vying for a spot so bookings have to be made well in advance. We ordered steak and pasta, both of which turned out to be excellent. There were some interesting cocktails on the menu concocted by the resident bar tender, we tried a couple and found them to be smooth and heady. We ordered chocolate mousse and strawberry tart for dessert , and found that the desserts were a notch above the food.

MYKONOS

Mykonos is an expensive destination for dining , but you get to lay your hands on some of the best fish and seafood here. A good affordable option for the budget traveller is Jimmy’s Souvlaki shop, serving a tasty wrap full of grilled meats and vegetables. Here is our review of the restaurants that we tried ….

Vegera Restaurant – Old Port

As soon as we landed in Mykonos, we wanted to try out Vegera. People had waxed eloquent on TripAdvisor singing praises for this joint by the sea, specially for its amazingly fresh seafood. No surprise then, that right after checking into our hotel, we trudged five kilometres for our first meal at Vegera.

For starters we ordered, Shrimp Saganaki, a traditional Greek seafood dish of shrimps simmered in tomato gravy with chunks of cheese. While the taste was fine, we found that they had not removed the shrimp’s head, tail or fibres, not even the poop chute which was a little off putting.

Vegera - Shrimp Saganaki
Shrimp Saganaki

Our main course consisted of Grilled Sea Bass, which was essentially just raw sea bass complete with the skin intact, potato wedges and some olive oil poured on top. While I like fish, this one was way too raw for my taste.

Vegera - Fish
Grlled Sea Bass

Fried fish with ranch sauce turned out to be our saviour here , the ranch sauce was flavourful and the fish fried golden brown. Overall, for us personally Vegera could not live up to the hype, the seafood was a bit too raw for our taste and it cost us a bomb ( 100 Euros for a meal for two !)

Vegera - Fried Fish
Fred Fish with Ranch Sauce

Kucino Restaurant – Ornos Beach

This one was recommended by the hotel staff as the go to place on Ornos Beach.

For starters we ordered our favourite dish, fried calamari. It is very difficult to go wrong with fried calamari, but it is a turn off when it comes out all soggy instead of crispy. Pity the sauce that came with it was full of punch.

Kuzina 3
Fried Calamari

The main course lifted our spirits, Grilled Chicken was the best dish with finely grilled chicken breast and a host of sautéed vegetables to go with it. The Salmon Pasta was decent, good on quantity but low on cheese and flavour.

Kuzina 1
Grilled Chicken

Elysium Restaurant

The hotel we put up in had an excellent diner with Pasta to die for.

Pappardelle with meat: The pasta was cooked to perfection, swimming in a delicious creamy cheese sauce sprinkled with mushrooms, and delicately cut tender meat pieces bursting with flavour in your mouth. It was just soo good…it was the best pasta we have had till date, not just in Greece but across the world, we didn’t find such amazing pasta even in our previous trip to Italy!!

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Risotto with pork chunks turned out to be another stunner !! This too was as cheesy as they get , with large chunks of juicy grilled pork . We would definitely recommend this place if you are travelling to Mykonos, hell it could even be the reason you travel to Mykonos !!

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Risotto with pork chunks

SANTORINI

Santorini is a much more balanced destination than Mykonos as you can find good food to suit everybody’s wallet. We had our best eating experience here, and the liberal servings of smooth Santorini wine just added an extra taste bud before every meal. Here is our review of the best restaurants.

Anemoloos Restaurant – Exo Gonia

This is one restaurant that I and my wife had decided to visit even before we booked our flights to Greece. It is ranked as the best value restaurant on TripAdvisor, and this one truly lived up to its hype.

Do you know that at Anemoloos they bake their own bread !! That’s right, fresh baked warm bread straight from the oven lands on your table with a bread knife, cheese sauce. and a jar of the best olive oil. It is soft to touch, it’s aroma wafts in the air when you slice through it. When you pour the olive oil over it, it gets soaked up in the numerous cavities and alcoves on the bread’s surface. And when you bite into it, you are instantly transported into food heaven, the bread just dissolves releasing the soaked up olive oil in your mouth. The best bread and olive oil in Greece, period!

Anemoloos - Bread
Warm Bread with Olive Oil

We also tried the drunken pork shoulder in wine sauce. The pork was extremely soft and the taste of wine had permeated its core. The Wine sauce was so amazing we couldn’t help taking spoonful’s of it.

Anemoloos - Meat Mezze
Drunken Pork Shoulder in Red Wine Sauce

Thalami Restaurant- Oia

Thalami is situated in the main street of Oia with a wonderful view of the sea and some wonderful food.

For starters we had Santorini tomato salad and cheese balls. The salad was awesome, it had bread crumbs , feta cheese , sliced onions and the star ingredient…Santorini tomatoes, deep red in colour, luscious and heavenly.

Thalami - Salads
Santorini Tomato Salad

Main course was Spaghetti Bolognese, the minced meat was spicy and well balanced by the spaghetti.

Thalami - Sphagetti Pasta
Spaghetti Pasta

For desserts we had the popular Baklava with Ice Cream, borrowed from neighbouring Turkey. The Baklava was excellent, crunchy on the outside with sprinkled pistachios and syrupy on the inside full of honey and sugar.

Thalami - Baklava and Ice Cream
Baklava with Ice Cream

Apsithia Restaurant – Oia

Apsithia is a popular restaurant nestled in the caldera facing side of Oia. We ordered some adventurous seafood here and found our experience mixed

We started with fish soup, while the fish was very fresh , the broth was a little bland for our taste

Santorini DInner - Fish Soup
Fish Soup

However we cracked the jackpot with the Octopus , the rough hide of the tentacles was pasted with a delicious wine sauce to make it smooth and the inside of the octopus was chewy and succulent.

Santorini Dinner - oyster
Octopus

To Ouzeri Restaurant- Fira

Whenever we go on a holiday, we keep looking for the perfect nirvana meal. There were several times we came close to declaring our meal the nirvana meal in Greece, especially in Elysium and Anemoloos, but the deserving candidate for nirvana meal is indeed To Ouzeri. Every dish was spectacular here, at the end of which you get the warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction , you can call it a food high . Presenting the dishes…

Greek Meatballs in Ouzo Sauce, just the sheer look of the dish and the aroma that hits your nose makes you salivate. The meatballs were tender, smoky and spicy at the same time. The ouzo sauce was like nothing we had ever tried before, cheesy but with a bite. They reminded me of our own family recipe in India of GolidarKebabs, but these tasted even better.

To Ouzeri - Meatballs
Greek Meatballs in Ouzo Sauce

Greek Souvlaki with Pita Bread was our first main course, and it was very different from the fast food souvlaki wrap that you can find on the streets of Greece. This was the real thing. It has char grilled chunks of meat on a stick, akin to the tikka in India/Persia, liberally pasted with olive oil and dripping with their own fat accompanied by cheese , onions, French fries and pita bread on the side.

To Ouzeri - Souvlaki
Greek Souvlaki

The Greek Style Lamb Shank was the last dish of the evening and eliminated the need for any dessert. It was a dream come true on a plate. It came wrapped in layers of cloth, in which it had been slow cooked overnight. As the layers of the cloth opened, the thick spicy aroma rushed out like steam, a look inside revealed a lamb shank with meat coming off the bone, and a gravy of meat stock , potatoes, tomatoes and onions. One bite of the tender lamb sent me into instant ecstacy as the complex taste unfurled on my tongue. The cut of the lamb was perfect and overnight cooking had melted the fat in the meat in a sort of glaze around the dish. It was THE nirvana meal we had been looking for and recommend it very strongly to anyone heading to Santorini.

To Ouzeri - Lamb Shank
Lamb Shank

In conclusion I would like to say only one thing, God bless the Greeks and their cuisine. Its a unique cuisine with a blend of European, Middle Eastern influences and a distinct local flavour. A trip to Greece is warranted just to try out their delicious cuisine.

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