Kimolos is petite; there’s no room for error. They’ve got just the one main town – Horio (not “Hora” like on other islands), and there’s no anonymity; everyone knows what everyone else is cooking, and reputation matters. In fact, restaurants sometimes go by two names – the official name, and the name everyone calls it, which is usually the name of the owner.
The people here are proud of their island, its products, and its traditions. Kimolos’s good reputation is a community priority, and each restaurant goes about preserving it in its own way. There’s something here for every mood; below are five places to dine, each offering a unique experience.
I Kali Kardia (“The Good Heart”)
Well-named, this warm-hearted institution, calling itself a “kafemezedopoleio” (place to get coffee or meze), covers a number of bases. It serves the town all day as a traditional hangout offering everything from coffee and ouzo to full homestyle cooked meals. Many of the locals more commonly refer to it as Bohoris, after the owner, Apostolos Bohoris, whose grandmother opened it in 1920.
They have a great selection of bottled ouzos on display which you can enjoy with some xyno – a locally made soft goats’ cheese, domatokeftedes – tangy tomato croquettes, or crisp cheese pies. You’ll probably end up treating these as a first course. Bohoris is known for its homestyle stews and roasts, and the scents are tempting. Ladera (basically any kind of vegetable cooked with tomato and oil until tender) are a specialty.
On Kimolos, together with ladera, goat is often available – the island’s meat of choice which is served in a variety of ways. Often it’s simply braised with almost nothing added – maybe a little lemon and some salt – until it falls apart into tender bites. Given that the animals spend their lives grazing on wild mountain herbs, their meat is full of flavor on its own.
At I Kali Kardia you may also find “wedding goat”, prepared in a rich wine and tomato sauce, while their moussaka – Greece’s signature dish that resembles a lasagna made out of layered vegetables – is delicate, fragrant perfection.
If the food were only average, rather than the delicious perfection it is, you’d still want to come here for the ambiance alone: tables spread outside along a charming alley, a black and white checkered floor under a high ceiling, and the jukebox. The last is not simply decorative. We listen, enchanted, to one 45 after another. They’re not particularly happy songs, but all the more atmospheric for it. One of our party dances like an angel. I ask Apostolos what his favorite selection is. He pauses to think. “Last Night at the Taverna”. Of course.
“Did you eat at Bemba’s?” This is what people who’ve been to Kimolos ask you when you return home. Sardi’s is another island institution that most people end up calling by the name of its owner, in this case, the chef, who became known for her homestyle dishes when she opened the place in 1995, a couple of years after opening some rooms here by lovely Aliki Beach.
Bemba is still the hostess, but her son Themis runs the place now and his wife Anna performs magic in the kitchen, making both Bemba’s classics and some of her own creations. No summer holiday is complete without a platter of lobster pasta, or something much like it. In this case, it’s linguini with langoustines and it’s delicious. We also have a platter of spaghetti with prawns, some fresh island salads, and then one of the new dishes: fat mussels in their shells in a creamy sauce with something delicate and hard to place – sweet, but not ouzo. It’s star anise, an inspired foil to the briny taste of the sea.
This is a festive place, where most of the people seem to be returning regulars – both Greeks and foreign visitors. Some have been coming for years, or even decades. With such a warm welcome and dishes this delicious, it’s the kind of place where you would want to become a regular, too.
To Kyma (The Wave)
If a full moon is going to rise over the Aegean, then you definitely have to dine by the beach, or, better still, on the beach, with sand between your toes. To Kyma, in Psathi (Kimolos’ harbor), gets it just right: white-tablecloth elegance and romantic lighting, the only music the sound of the tide punctuated with wineglasses chiming against one another periodically.
Just as the moon rises, our dishes start to arrive. On the island there’s a type of samphire that grows by the sea; it has fleshy leaves like a succulent. Here it’s called “almyrikia” (almyro meaning salty) and it’s full of the flavor of the sea. It’s cooked and served in heaps, with dark green olive oil and some lemon. We snack on crisp pies with the local “xyno”, and sweet eggplants stuffed with melted onions, and the local olive bread with our cool white wine.
Red mullets, caught just hours before, are the star of the dinner. They fall into fat moist flakes under their crisp skin. Everyone sighs with happiness. Reminiscing about meals like this will get you through a rainy February.
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Meltemi View and Taste
When you go to an island, especially if you’re from a big city, you may want a traditional experience. You’ll have it at Meltemi, but not like you’re expecting. Chef Augustos Galanos creates imaginative dishes, firmly grounded in prime indigenous ingredients and authentic tastes. He’s building on a tradition; he grew up in the restaurant. After culinary school and a spell working in Athens, he came back to take the family business in a new direction, ever deeply mindful of his culinary heritage.
Like his parents, he forages for his own wild herbs; bundles of them are drying near the kitchen. Dishes are built around traditional elements of Kimolos: local cheeses, meats, produce, and fresh seafood. The platings are creative yet unpretentious; the novel combinations feel so natural you wonder why we haven’t had them before. You’d be happy to pay much more at a fine table in Athens for dishes like these.
“I want to make modern, creative Kimolian cuisine. When people think of something “gourmet” they think of cream, they think of butter. But these are not Greek tastes. In Greece, we cook with olive oil, not butter. If I want something creamy, I use xyno,” he says. The dishes, glamorous though they are, exhibit a subtlety. Chef Galanos is 24; you could expect some exuberant excesses. But all we taste is harmony, technique, and a deep love of the authentic ingredients and flavors of the island. When I ask him what his own favorite dish is, there’s no hesitation. “Kokkinisto [a tomato meat stew] – my mother’s”.
The first place you see when you disembark is also an ideal spot for a festive meal before boarding the ferry home. Dappled sunlight falls onto the table through the roof of reeds. It’s spacious, simple, with an element of Cycladic chic. The service is warm and also fast – something to keep in mind if you have a ferry to catch. As you can expect from Apostolos Bohoris (of I Kali Kardia), also the owner here, the dishes are perfectly executed: fresh cut fries, excellent meats, glorious salads. There are also plenty of pastas, snacks, and child-friendly plates.
Postali is also a coffee place for a cheerful breakfast, and a romantic, cozy bar in the afternoon and night. They have exactly what you need when you need it, and at fine prices.
Bonus: Dessert at Stavento
In a little square in Horio we had some really delicious, top quality ice cream at cheerful Stavento, made by the equally cheerful Smaragda. She also has some delicious pastries such as syrup-drenched triangles of filo pastry from a ladies’ cooperative, and pastry “cigars” filled with local goat’s milk ice cream flavored with mastic. Smaragda’s husband Stavros operates the idyllic café bar on the square by the main church Panaghia Odigitria. It’s a favorite stop for an iced espresso and a little Miles Davis.