With shops closing, pensions and salaries shrinking, and more and more Greeks feeling the pinch, it never ceases to amaze us that good food in the capital and elsewhere is still appreciated and faithful customers still abound. The restaurants below are just a few among the many wonderful, lively places that are managing to keep their standards despite enormous financial pressures. Their prices are affordable, their quality outstanding.
Sea Satin Nino, Korthi Bay, Andros
This is one of those restaurants that a Michelin Guide would rate not merely as “worth the trip” but “worth the detour.” Although it may take an hour’s drive from the port and half an hour from Hora, any meal at Sea Satin Nino is cause for celebration. Chef/owner Dimitris Giginis has a way of imagining locally sourced ingredients in new guises that are both beautiful to look at and totally scrumptious. He cures his own mouth-watering pork fillet (louza), grills a mini-pyramid of Andros cheese, volaki, till the core melts and spills onto a side of sautéed cherry tomatoes, makes an open-faced sandwich of butterflied sardines and shaved pickled onion, tops baby kalamarakia (squid) with pesto sauce – just to name our favorites – all in a pleasantly shaded courtyard off Korthi’s main street. The service is friendly and excellent, and Giginis seems to be fulfilling his goal to make Korthi Bay the gastronomic center of the island. Moreover, his restaurant is open all day every day, even in the dead of winter.
Although the mere mention of Melilotos invariably elicits enthusiastic recommendations from downtowners, this correspondent had never managed to eat there until late November this year. But I leapt at the suggestion and was not disappointed. My dining companion and I sat outside on the pedestrianized street under a heater and studied the menu for ages before deciding on wild mushroom fricassee and salmon en papillote with an herbed crust and delicate mastiha-scented sauce.
The choice was difficult. The menu runs to several pages of traditional dishes with an emphasis on the freshest and best ingredients, cooked with an original twist. We hesitated over chickpeas baked with pumpkin and basil, chicken stew with prunes and quite a range of choice meats for carnivores. The waiter told us the salmon had to be cooked to order and would take 25 minutes, but who was in a rush? A couple of glasses of nice white wine arrived, along with two kinds of delicious bread in a paper bag. By the time we’d mopped up the sauce of the fricassee, our first course, the fish, arrived. It was perfect. So were the service, the lovely ceramic plates and even the decorative place mats. I’ll be going back soon.
To Tavernaki tis Marinas, Corfu
“If you’re in Corfu Town, make sure to have a meal at Marina’s taverna,” a local food-loving friend told us one Sunday morning in October. And as we happened to be in the neighborhood, between the Old Port and the New Fort, we negotiated the mazelike streets until we found it: a cozy room with green walls, modern paintings and solid wooden furniture. We chose a table outside in the almost private, tiny back alley that felt more like a courtyard.
It was late for lunch, so there weren’t too many customers, and we told Marina’s daughter who had sent us and said, “We don’t want a main course, but rather a sampling of your specialties.” What followed was a feast beyond our expectations: possibly the best marinated anchovies we’ve ever tried, a delectable mushroom salad with balsamic dressing, a plate of fried seafood (anchovies, sardines, kalamarakia) and definitely the best grilled grouper. We couldn’t figure out what made it so special; there was some magic going on. Magic was present in our warm welcome, too, and in the bill. But it wasn’t reserved just for us. We later heard that Christopher Hall, in Corfu to film the second season of the PBS/ITV production “The Durrells,” chose To Tavernaki tis Marinas for his end-of-season party for the cast and crew.
— Diana Farr Louis
This eatery in Metaxourgio, with its combination of good food, pleasant atmosphere, friendly service and great prices, is one of those places that never lets you down. I find myself going back there again and again without ever tiring of it.
The menu is seasonal and ever-changing, focusing on Greek cuisine and high quality ingredients. Anna and Fotis, the two passionate owners, clearly love what they do and are always in search of the best small producers around the country. Cheese, sausages, cured meat and fish, handmade pasta, olive oil, capers and more – all are shipped over to Athens, especially for them.
My all-time favorites here are the braised beef cheeks served on crispy hand-cut fried potatoes and the roast lamb with Greek-style egg noodles from Metsovo. The house wine and tsipouro are excellent.
A relatively new entry in the Athens food scene, this modern, light-filled restaurant is conveniently located on Voulis Street, near the Parliament and Plaka, and ideal for a more upscale lunch or dinner.
Kostas Pissiotis, the restaurant’s owner was inspired to open this restaurant by the talented, young, half-Greek, half-Japanese chef Sotiris Kontizas, who combines Greek and Asian ingredients and cooking methods.
The simple, straightforward menu focuses more on seafood, but also offers meat and vegetarian options. Dishes are served family-style on ceramic plates made specially for the restaurant and come with your choice of comforting sides: mashed potatoes, steamed rice, vegetables or potato bread.
I like the zucchini with miso and aged white cheese from Naxos, the bean noodles with olives and octopus, the short fin with fennel and the already famous steamed buns with pork cheeks. The fried chicken, coated in panko, or Japanese-style breadcrumbs, is perfectly cooked; crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, definitely one of the best I have ever tried.
Whenever I feel like eating fresh seafood with a flavorful twist, I head to Argoura. Its taverna-like appearance doesn’t make much of an impression, but the food is astonishingly good.
Owner and chef Nikos Michail puts so much effort and love in what he offers, carefully selecting every single ingredient himself daily. The restaurant is named after his village on the island of Evia, which is where most of the fish and seafood he serves comes from. Frying is out of question here – Michail prefers cooking methods that highlight the freshness of his ingredients.
He welcomes guests with a complimentary fish soup, and I recommend following that up with the green salad with sea urchin dressing and the taramosalata (fish roe dip) with sweet potato. Among his signature dishes is undoubtedly the marinated (uncooked, ceviche-style) seafood, pristinely fresh and bracingly flavorful: elegant white sea bream infused with bergamot and tuna with sweet vinegar. The smoked eel served with an eggplant purée is a must, and so is the handmade goglies (traditional gnocchi-like pasta from Evia) with langoustines.
I like to end the meal with a sweet bougatsa, layers of phyllo with a pumpkin custard sprinkled with generous amounts of cinnamon, and a shot of the dried-fruit infused tsipouro.
— Carolina Doriti