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Philly Phoodies in Athens


KipCraven
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I posted this on another site but have not gotten much of a response, so I figured I would go to the serious foodie site. I just signed up as a general member so I could begin posting.

In mid November my wife and I will be on holiday in Athens on our first visit to Greece. Food and wine are a key part of our cultural travels so I am looking forward to comments and suggestions from the experts. We do not speak Greek, but have survived in the past in areas where we did not speak the local language (we will learn key phrases like please, thank you, where is the bathroom, and red or white wine). Fortunately the rest of the world is bilingual to make up for our shortcomings. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to visit the US and not be able to speak English.

We are interested in a range of experiences from gourmet white tablecloth to local picnic table establishments. I will eat just about anything, but my wife is not quite as adventurous (stays away from shellfish and octopus) but is a real trooper. We will be staying in the Plaka area

I have identified the following possible restaurants.

Dinner?

• Psaras Fish Taverna

• Daphne’s

• Varoulko?• Hytra

• Aristera-Dexia

• Milos Athens

• Spondi (Or should we follow the chef to Jérôme Serres)?• 48 The Restaurant?

Lunch?

• To Palio Tetradio

• Mamacas?• Orizontes Lykavittou (Is the view worth it?)?• Taverna Tou Psiri?• GB Corner (Is the old time hotel service and view worth it?)

• O Thannassis

• Stoa Athanaton

• Byzantino

Do you agree or have better suggestions or comments? Where would you suggest for late morning snacks to hold us over until a late lunch?

We are also planning a day trip out to Hydra. Any taverna’s open for lunch worth trying???Do we need lunch or dinner reservations this time of the year? (Last September we stopped for lunch at a great tapas bar (Taktika-Berri) in Barcelona on a Tuesday and even arrived early, but they were fully booked. Fortunately we were able to sample the food at the bar so we could understand why they were booked. Next time we will reserve.

Thanks for your input.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Slow response here probably just means that you've listed all the right places.

The only addition I can make is to suggest that you eat at least once at Kollias in Pireaus which is well written up elsewhere. Nearly everybody who goes there however has their lost taxi driver story so check out the very clear instructions from Busboy here

Kolias also has an inspirational website. It's in Greek but go take a look anyway.

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This thread is the product of many weeks in Athens and should be helpful. I don't know how much time and money you have, but if I had to make choices, I'd take Hytra over Spondi -- I think Spondi is more Frenchified and my meal at Hytra was a little more daring -- though both are excellent. I liked Aristera-Dexia very much, though I understand they have a different, more formal menu in the winter. Milos had some high points (the Aegean oysters) and some low points (the entree was poorly cooked). Be prepared at Milos and other fish tavernas (if haven't discovered this already) to be led in the kitchen to pick your own fish.

I did not eat at Orizontes Lykavittou. However, I would bet against it on the general principle that restaurants with views and tourists are usually pretty expensive and not very good. The good news is that there is a cafe attached to the restaurant and you can enjoy the view (which is spectacular) for the (over)price of a frappe or a glass of ouzo. Similarly, if you are in the mood for a drink and have just finished seeing the Acropolis, spend a little time looking for the tucked-away tavernas around the edges of the Plaka, where tables are nestled up next to the ruins.

One great Greek tradition is the Saturday or Sunday "lunch" which usually commences between 2 or 3 (the stores close at 2 on Saturday, so every one shops until 2 and then goes to lunch) and goes for hours. Not to be missed. I would spend one such lunch at Cafe Avissinia, after antiquing around Avissinia square, not because the food is particularly smashing, but because the place is so much fun.

If you go to the Archaeological Museum -- and you should -- there are two inexpensive restaurants nearby which I like quite a bit, Alexandria and Patcute.

Have fun and report back!

(Addresses and phone #'s are on the linked discussion).

PS: Don't forget GEFSEIS ME ONMASIA PROELFSIS in Kifisias, the northern neighborhood at the end of the Green Line. Excellent Greek/Med.

PPS (Since you're from Philly) The Athenian equivalent of the cheesesteak is the gyro, of course, and they really are better there. There's an excellent join in Exarchia Square, in the Polytechnic area. The Monisteraki neighborhood, next to Plaka, is famed for the quality and variety of their gyros. Be careful that you get the wrapped kind, and not flat kind. Good late night dining (and late nights in Greece are late.)

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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i like o thanassis esp on a sunday afternoon.

and there is an exquisite restaurant, just exquisite, traditional island foods with a modern twist, i'm thinking papadappoulis? pappadakis? its in kifisias? i ate the best chickpeas of my life there, and the best barbounia......

Edited by marlena spieler (log)

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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  • 5 months later...

I never know on what authority or by what standards these choices are made (although my French teacher loves this place) but for what it’s worth May’s Conde Nast Traveler lists 95 “hot tables” that includes House of Mister Pil Poul et Jerome Serres in Athens.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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  • 4 months later...

Just ate at Pil Poul last night. Noted as a top 10 in the DK "athens top 10" guide and sounding decent, we arrived at opening 8PM with no reservation and looking a bit too casual, but were given a table anyway (a Tues night). The restaurant is very close to the Acropolis and Ancient Agora, and tables were on the roof with a spectacular view of the dramatically night-lighted Acropolis. Wow! What an amazing view. The roof-top was appropriately lit and the music was a nice mix of hip/trendy and sophisticated (think Sade), though more than one song seemed a bit out of place (too much techno feel or questionable lyrics for the setting). The waiters were formally dressed and provided excellent service, well balanced; attentive but never hovering, formal yet not stiff.

Though it is in Athens, the food certainly is not informed by any Greek culinary tradition that I could identify, and is not dramatically different than what is served in top tasting menu-type restaurants in other international cities. It was solidly grounded in Modern French Cuisine, with little wisps of influence from other cuisines. My wife and I both had the large degustation menu, and to cut to the chase a few courses were so-so (given the quality of the restaurant..still excellent food), and a few were absolutely spectacular. But when you add up the location, the view, the ambience, the service, the food...it was a solid winner in my book. I have not been to any other top-notch high-end restaurant in Athens, but it's hard for me to imagine it not being in the top 10...or even the top 3 or 4.

We started out with a cold potato soup garnished with a small piece of foie gras. Taste was good, but it was slightly sticky in texture. One of my least favorite courses. This was followed by an outstanding half-moon shaped foie gras terrine with caramelized strawberry, served with brioche. Probably the best foie gras terrine I've ever had; gorgeous plating, creative use of caramel. Next up for me was a jaw-dropping scallop dish. Two perfectly seared scallops on a bed of carrot puree prepared with just a hint of cumin, with the scallops topped with a rose petal and rosewater gelee. An intensely flavored, bright red, sweet-tart concentrated rose reduction accented the gorgeous presentation. This ranks with the very best dishes I've ever tasted. The flavors worked so well together, and the novelty of rose as a flavoring--yes, I've had it before a number of times, but never so prominently featured--gave the dish a real "WOW!!!" factor. My wife had a lobster dish here than was also good but I think not up to my scallops. It did have a great tomato gelee with it.

Next, grouper, perfectly roasted with a glaze of pureed spinach and a sauce of spinach and shrimp, and brunoise of sunchoke. The saltiness and lemon in the sauce with the sunchoke worked very well. Then, getting back from surf to turf, a fantastic 3-4 inch section of pork tenderloin (nicely pink in the center, as it should be) with a black truffle meat-reduction sauce that had a touch of sweetness, and a nice accent of nigella seeds. This was served with potatoes baked and served in a non-edible cylinder made from hay, flour, and spices and topped with a small amount of sweet shallot foam (an excellent touch). The cylinder succeeded in transferring a spicy nuance to the potatoes.

A tansition course came next, of liquid shot o' chocolate with a faint greek basil infusion and a chocolate bon-bon containing tonka bean ice cream. Nice subtlety in the chocolate drink; most diners weren't able to identify the basil. Then for desert proper, 2 courses: 1) a chocolate tube (think truffle in the shape of a tube) with chocolate sauce, and on the side Tonka bean ice cream (more than one small bite, this time) on a banana slice and a caramel garnish and 2) a pinapple soup (finely diced pineapples in pinapple juice) with a passionfruit sorbet and again a caramel garnish. This last course was probably the least successful of all. Or maybe the first course.

84 euro each, plus wines (half bottle each of a good greek chardonnay and greek carbernet), so the meal wasn't cheap. But not out of line with the quality of the food and the quality of the experience.

Overall, some things I'd nit-pick about if I were reviewing the place formally. Some inedible leaves were used as garnish, and the same type in a couple of courses. Caramel was used in at least three courses, and in fairly prominent ways. The tonka bean ice cream was repeated. At this level, I think it's important to keep each element of every course novel throughout the meal.

The music could be slightly improved.

As it is, Pil Poul certainly belongs in the company of the other top restaurants I've eaten in (Trotter's, Seegers, Senses, Bacchanalia, The Dining Room in Atlanta). A few changes, and it will be a real gastro-life defining experience, given the setting.

Chip Wilmot

Lack of wit can be a virtue

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