The cooking pot of eateries in Athens is always bubbling. The scene changes constantly, but what remain unchanged are the high aesthetic standards of the venues that have recently opened. One thing is for sure: the crisis blew away the glitter. The city’s expensive restaurants are now among the most affordable in Europe. Value for money has become a basic prerequisite. And we’re still hungry for ethnic food, skillfully prepared drinks, well-made coffee and tasty street food. Nothing lasts forever – this has been amply demonstrated by the modern history of our small gastronomical scene. But, we, the customers will continue to gain experience, become gastronomically smarter and more demanding. And that’s a good thing.
8 TRENDS OF THE YEAR
1. Dinner at the deli
The dance was led by Karamanlidika tou Fanis. The concept is simple: you choose cold meats and cheeses from the display case, embellish with mezes and wash down with Greek beverages. In the cheese shop of the Kostarelos family in Kolonaki, it’s a similar approach, with sandwiches and salads featuring specially selected cheeses and cold cuts prepared by award-winning chef Chrysanthos Karamolegos.
At the newly arrived Ergon in Syntagma Square, the menu is based on delicatessen products. The bar is raised even further by Yoleni’s Flagship Store in Kolonaki, the brick-and-mortar version of the enterprising online food store. With products from all over Greece, an olive oil bar, a grill restaurant with meat from Bralos Farm, the skills of chef Michael Nourloglou, tastings, events and a space offering creative activities for kids, it has everything. We also heard something about special pies which will be baked on the spot in a high-tech oven. They’ll be available at the end of the month.
2. Greek favorites we love
Cookoovaya continues to act as a trailblazer, and we hope others will follow its example. Top quality products and bright, bold ideas from six excellent chefs – the way Greek restaurants should be. Gikas Xenakis returns with an even stronger, creative Greek menu at Aleria; chef Alexandros Kardasis at Athiri grafts his modern dishes with rustic overtones; at The Zillers, atop the hotel of the same name, Konstantina Faklari keeps the cuisine Greek; while Aris Tsanaklidis with his new menu at Kuzina reinvents Greek fish soup with a rich broth featuring steamed vegetables.
At his gastro-bistro CTC, Alexandros Tsiotinis offers a personal take on postmodern Greek cuisine (how else could one describe slowly poached octopus-crusted fish of the day?) while at Kool Life, the restaurant in the Life Gallery boutique hotel, where he recently took charge of the kitchen, the food has a more comfort-cuisine feel. Consider, for example, the buffalo ragout with handmade pasta or the orzo with traditional Greek whey cheese and rosemary.
3. More ethnic than ever
Having already conquered China, India, Japan and Thailand, we spent last year in Peru (at Dimitris Katrivesis’ La Pantera Negra) and this year we’re savoring delicacies from Venezuela and Colombia. Los Loros is the restaurant run by Marko Rossi and Maro Paraskevoudi, to which diners are already flocking for their well-crafted empanadas and arepas.
4. Food in bars
And cocktails in restaurants. Two trends which demonstrate the desire of Athenian foodies to kill two birds with one stone. The weekend American-style brunch served at The Clumsies is called “The Sandwich Project” and features six sandwiches prepared by the head chef at the InterContinental, Jean-Charles Métayer (who is rumored to be taking over the restaurant in Davos). Alexander Tsiotinis is the chef behind the tapas at the classic bar CV Distiller. While at Odori Vermuteria di Atene, delicious Italian cuisine and great cocktails vie for the attention of your tastebuds.
Notable mixologists include the award-winning Spyros Kerkyras who has created the drinks list of three restaurants (Oozora, Nikkei and Pepe Aperitivo which just opened in Kolonaki), Vasilis Kyritsis who heads the bar at Barrio in Gazi, and Vassilis Tsompanidis who presents his creations at Belle Amie and Pirée (both in Piraeus).
5. Fusion is dead, long live fusion
Wakame seaweed, rare breeds of beef, spices from the most unlikely parts of the world. There is nothing on the international gastronomy map which our chefs haven’t put on their plates. But fusion cuisine is much more than this, as illustrated by a number of chefs who strive to achieve a perfectly harmonious combination of different culinary traditions.
In Greece, Aris Tsanaklidis and Christoforos Peskias have been pioneers in this endeavor, while Sotiris Kontizas is at the helm of the city’s finest high-end comfort dining venue, Nolan. Tasting the shrimp and anchovy in rice paper and the sautéed mushrooms with cauliflower and Asian spices, it is as if the Far East suddenly borders the Mediterranean.
6. Coffee Capital
Quishr opened just a few days ago and is the latest in a series of excellent cafes which in recent years have popped up all across the city. A few examples are Just Made 33 in Aghias Eirinis Square, Qahwa in Aigaleo, Mind the Cup in Peristeri and Kudu “The Workshop” in Gazi. And what do they have in common? Quality coffee, small-batch varieties from small plantations, high technology and their own perfect roast. Is it a passing fad? Probably not: something tells me they are here to stay and will spread to every neighborhood, just like their cousins, the wine and cocktail bars.
7. Street-food comfort
New burger, souvlaki and falafel joints are constantly opening. Each neighborhood has its own collection. Not all of them are good, but we already knew that. However, this is a trend that is closely linked to the country’s ongoing economic crisis. For at these eateries the food is cheap; you can fill yourself for just three euros, with the added bonus of it being a little sinful. Not all of them will go the distance, but in the meantime we’re getting to know authentic Russian pirozhki, rediscovering old-style souvlaki without french fries or dressing, and learning to look for authenticity and quality.
8. Mixing it up
They unveil rare treats, make their own syrups and bitters, mature cocktails in barrels and mix up fantastic drinks. They’ve swept the board with a host of international awards, as in the case of The Clumsies and Baba Au Rum, which were recently ranked 9th and 40th among the 50 best bars in the world!
The most eagerly awaited arrival this year is probably Borsalino by Yiannis Korovesis, who after years in well-established Athenian bars has acquired his own place in partnership with Makis Papadatos, Aris Vassilopoulos and Nikolas Tsampros. According to the owner, Borsalino will be an unpretentious bar with a retro feel, drinks with a discreetly Mediterranean air and an emphasis on seasonality – finally! Their accompanying mezes will carry the signature of Michalis Nourloglou.
Meanwhile, all the bars are renewing their drinks lists. Among the most interesting are the 12 cocktails which are being prepared at Rehab and Drunk Sinatra next door. Something tells me that “Do not be lazy” – with six different rums, cognac, notes of orange, tonka beans, cloves, cherries and chocolate – will be the hit of the year. Of the recent arrivals, the bohemian-style Upupa Epops in Petralona definitely stands out.