Story and photos by Nick A. Ross
Athens Acropolis and Museum and Rhodes street by Manos Angelakis
My Greek Sojourn.
We’re on the road again.
This time I’m in Athens, our Managing Editor’s city of origin, and my Greek is limited to “kalimera” (Good Morning) which for the first few days I mistakenly pronounce “kalamari” (Squid) – hence the hotel receptionist’s confusion at calling for squid in those mornings as soon as I saw her at the front desk!
It was just a stop-over to see the Acropolis museum that was opened a number of years ago, but I did not have a chance to visit until now. Then I was off to Rhodes.
Old-money Athens still clings to the Continental cuisine or Oriental (i.e. Turkish) style of cooking though, as my associates tell me, the younger generation now prefers Asian.
Chinese, Japanese and Thai restaurants are proliferating, though most of the top establishments catering to the old-money still have French, Continental or Greek/Mediterranean kitchens.
Haute cuisine à la Greque is practiced at Spondi (an ancient Greek word that means libation), the single-star Michelin rated restaurant located in the Pangrati area behind the Olympic Stadium. Tucked between two apartment buildings, this restaurant takes care of the culinary needs of upper-class Athenians and visitors in the know, with excellent service, brilliantly prepared food and wines that I would call “nectar of the Greek Gods”.
And if you don’t mind quirky settings, a former warehouse in Piraeus houses Varoulko, a restaurant that -- though on the pricey side -- has acquired through time a very loyal clientele. The room setting is minimalist but the kitchen really knows its way to brilliance with fish and seafood. The wine list showcases some of the newer viticultural offerings from Greek artisanal vintners as well as offering the products of larger, more established wine houses.
My stay in Athens was only for a couple days as I had planned an eating visit to Rhodes to try some of the better restaurants on the island as well an exploration of the medieval town where the fortified buildings of the Knights Templar still stand as a testament to the engineering skills of those Crusaders!
But my main focus was the food…
You’ll want to try all the dishes at Carne, an upscale steakhouse in Rhodes. The waiters were fluent in English and explained dishes we were not familiar with. It is called a “steakhouse” but it is much more than that.
We loved the zucchini fritters as one of the appetizers; the eggplant salad -- you could smell the eggplant as if it was just roasted and the charcoal grilled Halloumi slices were heavenly.
Another restaurant we tried, Noble Gourmet, is the island’s most lauded restaurant. Many of the dishes in Rhodes get their flavor profile from past conquerors that brought exotic spices and interesting tastes to the isle but in this case the dishes were nuvelle cuisne at its best. A team of talented chefs works behind a glass wall while a pianist plays “classics” in the dining room. Waves break against the shore just beyond the restaurant’s location at the top floor of the Elysium Resort & Spa. On the pricy side for a Greek restaurant, but very worth it!
One of the most remarkable dishes was fish, finished on a tabletop grill and served with a mélange of leeks. Octopus mosaic with vine leaves, cauliflower with bottarga, kimchi fennel and strawberry vinegar also was spectacular.
Whether it is nuvelle cuisine, molecular cuisine, Asian fare or classic Mediterranean dishes, Greece has it all!
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