The working-class area of Brahami has never been Athens’ hottest gastronomic destination. It is a mostly residential neighborhood, halfway between the city center and the exotic beach-loving southern suburbs. Like most of the city’s suburbs, in the not-so-distant past, this area was once made up mostly of fields. Now formally named Agios Dimitrios (St. Dimitrios, after St. Dimitrios’s church), it has a vibrant local market. It’s also home to Remoutsiko, a family-owned, family-friendly taverna focusing on meat. Housed in an old converted barn, the restaurant has been around for some 30-plus years.
The traditional Greek diet might be based on the consumption of olive oil, grains, pulses and seasonal produce, but the rapid rise in living standards from the 1960s onwards has created a generation of dedicated carnivores, and Remoutsiko makes its intentions clear even before you set foot through its wooden doors. There is a refrigerated showcase at the entrance of the courtyard offering up a sort of cornucopia of meat, from sujuk (the spicy beef sausage with cumin and sumac enjoyed all around the Balkans and the Middle East) to prime pork and beef cuts, kebabs and thinly sliced lamb chops.
The décor and atmosphere is that of a typical 1980s Greek taverna: mosaic tiled floors, two fireplaces, dark lacquered wood and an endless variety of bric-a-brac on the walls. Large groups of men, families and couples eat while the music plays a variety of Greek pop songs from the 80s and 90s. The art on the walls can be described as anything from eccentric (one painting is a neon blue girl/alien creature with bleeding eyes) to idiosyncratic (a vintage meat grinder caught our attention). Nobody comes here for the décor though – or the enthusiastic, polite service.
Remoutsiko is known not only for its succulent, perfectly grilled lamb chops, which come from very young lambs, but also for its ewe chops (unlike in most western European countries, Greeks enjoy eating sheep and goat of all ages). Ewe chops are an acquired taste: they are darker, chewier and almost gamey in flavor. They’re a delicacy that is hard to find in central Athens (but which we’ve written about previously). The third dish, kontosouvli, is by far our favorite. Pork is marinated in red wine, spices – anything from garlic and pepper to thyme and oregano – and then placed on a spit and cooked for hours. Remoutsiko does the best kind of rotisserie pork – shaved crackling pieces of it were placed in front of us with onion and tomato shavings on top.
Although this is a typical Greek taverna, it is also atypical in all sorts of important ways. The bathrooms, hidden behind a tiny door, are super modern and sparkling clean. There are clearly designated smoking and non-smoking sections, and the ventilation actually works so you won’t carry that lovely taverna smell with you for days to come.