Greeks have always placed food in the middle of the table. It’s a practice that’s observed throughout the Mediterranean. Middle Eastern delicacies, Italian antipasti and Spanish tapas fill the tables reflecting familial traditions, warmth, light-heartedness and the sheer joy of sharing.
Of course, not all dishes are meant to be shared (soup or pasta, for example), but there are plenty that can star in the center of the table, offering a few mouthfuls of deliciousness for the entire group. Here, we explore eight new places in downtown Athens that combine originality, intimacy, and the quintessentially Greek culture of sharing.
This place has come a long way since it opened, when it was near-impossible to find even with a GPS. Today, Athenians from all over the city head to this gastro-taverna, gastro-cookery, taverna-bistro – we don’t know exactly what to call it – that has found its place in a corner between the tram lines (the Kasomouli stop is right across the street) and the refugee apartment buildings of Dourgoutiou. The greenery, the neighborhood’s ambience, a laid back, familial style that Fotis Foteinoglou and Thodoris Kassavetis wanted to give their restaurant, definitely plays a role in Phita’s broad appeal, But the main attraction is the food itself, made with quality ingredients and interesting, unique touches, while abiding by the concept of sharing.
The menu changes depending on what they find at the market, so there is always something different to try. These days, in addition to their deliciously smooth taramosalata (fish roe), which everyone now orders, you can get dolmades with salted trout and lemon cream, stuffed croquettes, garlic carpaccio with tomato, lemon zest and basil, tuna tartare with sea urchin mayonnaise and lime, sea bass with brioche, or baked okra with fish. The seafood here is also wonderful. -A.S.
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Annie Fine Cooking
The ideal scenario for a late summer meal: an island taverna, with plenty of salads and the whole gang digging their forks into every dish on the table at the same time. Stefanos Michalis – chef of Annie Fine Cooking and an Anafioti (from the island of Anafi) at heart – serves the next best thing.
Whatever we wanted to eat this summer, he had it: raw Mayiatiko fish with fruit, seasoned with oil, roasted zargana with almyra greens, stuffed (yes, stuffed!) steamed mussels with delicious botanical juices, fava with goat’s liver, tender goat chops and island cheeses, like the kariki from from Tinos and dry Milos cheese.
The dishes change from day to day, depending on the ingredients available, but the essence of the menu remains the same: freshness and deliciousness. You’ll find it on a shady pavement of Neos Kosmos. Take a good look at the wine list with its great Greek labels. -G.P.
When still in its conceptual stage, chef and co-owner Sifis Manouselis decided that the restaurant would be one where everything that was brought out from the open kitchen would be placed right into the middle of the table and be shared. As soon as the restaurant – which they call a “gastro-koutouki” – opened, spreading out its tables on a pedestrian street in Ilisia, two steps away from Michalakopoulou Avenue, it almost makes you forget about the traffic and the hustle and bustle.
In this new place with a modern style, which aims to showcase its culinary prowess through its dishes while also remaining down to earth and “user-friendly,” the menu, which changes weekly, is not divided into the usual categories of appetizers, salads and mains. You pick the dishes you want, they are served in the order the restaurant deems they should be eaten, diners are advised to share, and thus, you get to sample more flavors.
On our first visit, we went for the tomato salad with fermented tomatoes, strawberry jam and anavato cheese, and a grape and sourdough vinaigrette, the very tasty mussels, with spinach, sunflower seeds and a little chorizo for a hint of heat, and the reassuring, tender and sweet-eating rooster pastitsada with kioufichta and Ithaca lasagna. -A.S.
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In the atmospheric Paramythias pedestrian street, Proveleggios offers uplifting dishes with diverse creative and cultural references that are designed for sharing. Depending on the season, the day, and the team’s inspiration, the menu changes to include everything from raw and grilled food to pizzas, tacos and mini burgers.
Some of what we put in the middle of the table on a recent visit: salmon trout gravlax with grapefruit and lots of dill, sashimi dashi served over brine, grilled tacos with fish, and a sourdough pizza that’s cooked in a wood-fired oven. Highlight: the char-grilled vinaigrette salad with simple oil and lemon, Naxos aged anthotyro and apricots. -G.P.
Chef Haris Nikolouzos and Spoiled Bar owner George Kavaklis first met in the area of Dafni and dreamed up their restaurant. For Jerár they wanted to give the area a touch of unpretentious gourmet dining. Almost everyone who sits at the tables, whether outside, on the pedestrian walkway, gazing at the kids playing on the playground, or inside, across from the open kitchen, shares dishes. Even the signature cacio e pepe – Mikrolimano shrimps topped with a fluffy bisque and shrimp tartare. “It’s not something I pushed for, it just turned out that way,” says the chef, “but why not?”
We urge you to order the pasta for yourself and put the following in the middle: the velvety taramosalata with aromatic olive oil, the vine leaf with crispy buckwheat, the fried rabbit with mayonnaise, which testifies to the chef’s Corfiot ancestry, the cod with chickpeas, or the prime rib. Along with the menu, you’ll not only find an interesting wine list that brings together labels of small wineries from Greece and abroad, but also cocktails with the signature of the “brother” bar. -A.S.
This is indeed a taverna, which is traditionally all about sharing, but envisioned by Christoforos Peskias, one of the most creative chefs in Greece. Here, the meze is playful, with the Greek element very much in the foreground whilst playing with other ideas and ingredients that give it that extra “something.”
Spread out on the tables are carpaccio sea bass with green tomato and kumquat, a fantastic salad with vine leaves, almonds, Skyros gruyere, and a dried egg and tomato dressing that suits it very well, a simple almira salad with Japanese style egg-lemon sauce, a shrimp popcorn with a dense fruity sauce, black garlic and umeboshi, fried mullet, lamb sweetbreads with a spicy “cherry” pepper sauce and many more dishes that transform the familiar with surprising elements.
The chef has also added to the menu a small collection of fine Greek products, which can be served alongside wine, beer or tsipouro, including Cretan gruyere, Tinos sausage, smoked eel from Arta, and egg tartare from Messolonghi. – A.S.
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“Compartir es vivir” (to share is to live) declares Cerdo Negro. The Gazi restaurant, which references Greek and Spanish cuisine, proposes dishes designed for groups. In the short, concise menu you will find ten dishes that are renewed every two months, based on the ingredients of each season. The chef and co-owner Konstantinos Alexopoulos handles the grill, cooking over open flames, roasting, searing and smoking foods, and proposes fascinating, sometimes exuberant dishes that are definitely worth trying. -G.P.
Cherchez la Femme
Looking out to passers-by, at a close but safe distance from the busy thoroughfare of Ermou Street, this is a Greek bistro or, as it describes itself, a modern urban café. It opens in the morning for coffee on the patio and continues with vermouths and wines that go down nicely with the meze dishes on offer.
Recently the menu has been renewed with the help of Stavriani Zervakakakos, who curated a significant part of it. The dishes that can be shared make for a nice culinary excursion around Greece, as they are based on and highlight fine ingredients from various parts of the country.
You’ll taste everything from semi-baked anchovies with aged vinegar, grated tomato and herbs, seasonal greens with Limnos mavromitiko beans with tahini, lemon and oil dressing, boiled egg with sumac, and bouyourdi with Limnos kalathaki cheese, Fenelou gigantes beans cooked in orange juice and served with smoked mackerel or yachni potatoes with herring, which take on a new dimension when cooked with wine. To finish: Mani milk pie, baked rizogalo rice milk and other milky desserts.
This article was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.