On a busy thoroughfare in Keramikos near the bustling neighborhood of Gazi, it’s easy to miss Athiri – but we urge you to keep an eye out for this culinary gem.
When we last visited the restaurant, the polite waiters welcomed us with gracious smiles. We chose a table in the verdant courtyard, a small oasis in the heart of Athens. The interior of the restaurant is simple and elegant as well, with modern details to complement the lovely atmosphere.
Chef Alexander Kardasis has a personal and modern vision of Greek cuisine and is always striving to create clean flavors with traditional underpinnings. To that end, he’s assembled a collection of the finest raw materials, many of which arrive fresh daily. They include ingredients with protected designations of origin, such as capers and fava beans from Santorini, saffron from Kozani and feta from Kefalonia.
In keeping with the small-plates format that’s all the rage these days among ambitious restaurants the world over, Athiri’s menu lists a section of reasonably priced dishes that are meant for sharing and tasting. While we considered the menu options, we were served a lovely carrot, orange and ginger soup as a welcoming dish, along with some rolls, which were still warm.
We began with a simple salad of greens – refreshing valerian and mint among them – and cranberries with niotiko skotyri, a spicy spreadable cheese, which was perfectly complemented by the vinaigrette. From the small dishes, we chose the lachmatzoun, a savory pie topped with moderately spicy ground beef and arugula, and another pie with tomato, goat cheese from Monemvasia, kefalotyri cheese from Ios and sour xinomyzithra from Crete. Both were delicious and filling, even if the lachmatzoun was too small to be easily shared between two. However, this was the exception; if we’d known how generously sized the main courses would be, we would have reserved a little more space in our stomachs.
One of those mains was pancetta with Greek yogurt sauce and pita. The pork was incredibly tender, as it had been cooked sous vide (under pressure and for a long time at a low temperature). We also ordered trahana, a Greek pasta made of cracked wheat, bulgur or flour with buttermilk, yogurt or milk. It’s usually served in soups or in tomato sauce with grated kefalotyri cheese, which is how it was prepared at Athiri. We loved the addition of the poached egg.
The wine at Athiri is given as much attention as the food. We selected a Theodorakakos rosé made from Aghioghitiko and Mavroudi grapes, which had a fragrance of fresh fruit and a smooth finish. The beverage list offers dessert and sparkling wines, spirits and beer, as well as five wines by the glass. If you’re into beer, you should try ZEOS, which is brewed in Argos.
Kardasis changes up the menu to take advantage of seasonal produce and to keep things interesting. And his talent behind the stove has not gone unnoticed: He’s not only received the Chrisoi Skoufoi (Golden Chef’s Hat) award, but Athiri has been recognized by the Michelin guide too! But this is one restaurant in the little red book where you can get creative, exceptional cooking that won’t break the bank – a feast can be had for just €35 per person.
Editor’s note: To celebrate the ‘Year of the Neighborhood,’ we will be republishing dispatches from the less-visited areas – like Keramikos – that our correspondents are planning to explore this year.