As food writers, it’s our job to describe the dishes we enjoy at the many restaurants we visit. As food lovers, sometimes, we’d rather turn into cartoon characters and just go: chomp, gulp, gobble gobble, slurp! This is a list of dishes at some of the best restaurants in Athens, which all turn us right into Garfield, but we’ve tried to describe them as best we can here. If these were all on the same menu, we’d probably never leave.
Pastitio at Vezene
Probably the most famous dish of renowned Greek chef Aris Vezene, his deconstructed pastitio pairs an incredible beef tartar with handmade cannelloni, fresh tomato, and potato foam. If you ask, the dish can be reconstructed at your table to resemble a traditional pastitio, but we prefer it as it is, in the form that lets us built the perfect mouthfuls on our forks. G. P.
11 Vrasida, Ilisia, Tel. (+30) 210.723.2002
Lamb Tacos at Loco
Meat slow-roasted for 15 hours until soft as butter, then caramelized under high heat just before serving, goes into the lamb tacos at brand new Loco. Combining Mexican and Eastern flavors in every bite, the handmade corn tortilla also holds smoked eggplant, tahini sauce, pickles and coriander. G. P.
15 Kalamiotou, Tel. (+30) 210.331.8778
Arancini at Napul’è
It begins with risotto. A creamy saffron risotto with parmesan, to be specific. When it cools and thickens, it is shaped into balls and stuffed with whatever’s in season; in the summer, we had it stuffed with eggplant parmesan (parmigiana di Melanzane), and later in the year, with slow-cooked beef cheeks. The arancini balls are fried until golden, and served on top of a silky, thick parmesan sauce, perfect for dipping. G. P.
43 Vasileos Konstantinou, Vari, Tel. (+30) 210.965.5815
Popcorn Shrimp at Dopios
At renowned Greek chef Christoforos Peskia’s contemporary mezedopoleio, the popcorn shrimp resembles Greece’s traditional “bakaliaros skordalia” (fried cod with garlic dip), and is totally addictive. The battered shrimp tails are expertly fried, and served steaming hot with a black garlic skordalia. G. P.
1 Skouleniou, Tel. (+30) 210.331.0049
“Fides” at Annie Fine Cooking
This flawless surf and turf dish, a perfected version of “fides,” or Greek noodle soup, it is made with whatever fresh fish – sometimes cod, other times grouper – and shellfish are in season, thin noodles and Greek cured meat such as salami from Lefkada, pastourma, salted pork or orange scented sausages from Mani. The flavors melt together in a divine broth with tomato (a dollop of tomato puree in the winter, peeled fresh tomatoes in the summer). The finishing touch: a dab of real butter. Beware that because the menu changes often, the fides isn’t available every day. N. M.
4 Menechmou, Neos Kosmos, Tel. (+30) 210.921.3690
Roasted piglet at Gastone
The meat is served sliced, which is a bit more sophisticated than what we’re used to, but the taste still brings us back to a rural village, where the piglet is roasted whole. Served on smaller spits, the meat is juicy and tender, with skin crisp like crystal, shattering as you bite it. It comes with piccalilli, which goes well with the meat, but we forget about it. This meat is so good, we rather eat it “neat”. G. P.
43 Praxitelous, Tel. (+30) 210.321.1455
Ravioli at GB Roof Garden
Handmade pasta filled with a smooth pumpkin puree sits in a thick buttery sauce, enriched with volaki cheese from the island of Andros. Fermented blueberries add a touch of acidity to the velvety dish, which can with favor be eaten with a spoon. The dish is a perfect representation of the restaurant’s new winter menu, featuring fine, smart comfort food by chef de cuisine Nikos Mavrokostas. N. D.
1 Vasileos Georgiou, Syntagma, Tel. (+30) 21+.333.0000
Ceviche at FITA
We love ceviche, and this is the best one we’ve ever had in Athens. It’s made with various fish, depending on what fishermen have caught on any given day, from bogue to greater amberjack and, when in season, smooth clams or snails. These are paired with mango, chili, pickled onion, coriander, citrus juices and agourelaio (immature olive oil). God help us. N. M.
1 Ntroum, Tel. (+30) 211.414.8624
Pâté at Paleo
At paleo, they’ll serve you a whole vase of this creamy Tuscan-style chicken liver pâté. Each and every time, I wonder how on earth we’re going to finish it all. And every time, we end up scraping the bottom clean. A retro dish with tons of umami flavor, it pairs great with wine. N. M.
39 Polidefkous, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 210.412.5204
Taramosalata with tomato at Oinoscent
The most intense taramosalata (salted roe dip) that we’ve ever tasted is the result of an inspired idea by Oinoscent’s young chef, Giannis Tsikoudakis. He doubles up on roe. To the tarama (the salted roe), he adds fresh and dried avgotaraho, the Greek caviar. Instead of the regular lemon, he uses tomato water, which adds freshness and acidity to balance out the fatty fish eggs. The finishing touch is the parsley, which he adds in three forms: oil, powder and sprouts. Give us a warm loaf of bread and a glass of Assyrtiko, and this is the only meze we need. N. D.
45-47 Voulis, Tel. (+30) 210.322.9374
Potatoes with eggs at Basegrill
Slurp! The number of restaurants trying to copy this dish, which reminds all Greeks of the best, crispy part of the fries with eggs we enjoyed as kids, is a testament to its perfection. The large hash brown is topped with perfectly runny eggs fried sunny side-up, and it’s so good that for a few moments at this grill house, we forget about the meat. G. P.
This article was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.
64 Leof. Konstantinoupoleos, Peristeri, Tel. (+30) 210.575.7455