What they're eating in Athens
Japanese-Peruvian dishes, slow-cooked rabbit and pistachio mousse are all on offer in the Greek capital. Here are six unmissable dishes — and the innovative restaurants that created them — to seek out on your next trip.
Greece is known for its tavernas, and while Athens has more than its fair share, its dining scene is diverse, dynamic and international. Here you’ll find everything from Japanese izakaya-style bars dishing up succulent meats straight off the grill to Italian restaurants creating delicate desserts. However, if you do want to go Greek, there are plenty of places to choose from, both classic and contemporary. Here’s our pick of what to eat in Athens — and where to eat.
1. Grouper with jalapeño and yuzu: Island
At Island, Greek cooking is combined with Asian and Latin American ingredients, in keeping with the city’s growing trend for fusion cuisine. Fresh local grouper fillet is seared on both sides until crisp on the outside and juicy inside. It’s placed atop a perfectly balanced, velvety jalapeño pepper sauce, sweetened with mirin, and topped with a sweet-and-sour yuzu foam.
2. Uramaki: Workshop by Aliento
Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine, known as Nikkei, first came to Athens about five years ago, and Workshop by Aliento is one of the best places to try it. The thing to order? Uramaki, inside-out sushi rolls. In this dish, prawn tempura, asparagus, avocado and sriracha are rolled up in a sea-bass fillet marinated in ‘tiger’s milk’, the spicy, citrus-based mix used in ceviche. The whole thing is then wrapped in a thin layer of rice and topped with fried onion flakes.
3. Açaí island bowl: Happy Blender
Originating in Brazil, açaí bowls have long been a favourite in California, and are making waves here, too. Açaí, a sour superfruit packed with vitamins and antioxidants, is frozen, blended and served with healthy toppings. At Happy Blender, they blitz açaí with organic coconut milk and pineapple, topping it with kiwi and banana, Greek honey (or agave syrup for vegans) and granola with dried fruit.
4. Pistachio mousse: Margot
Margot is one of the best Italian restaurants in the city and this dessert has earnt it a lot of fans. The dish starts with a base of pistachio crumb and praline, followed by caramelised sour cherries and a generous scoop of sour cherry sorbet. A pistachio sablé then covers the sorbet, followed by a whipped ganache with white chocolate and pistachio praline. The whole thing is then sprinkled with caramelised chopped pistachios and more cherries.
5. Rabbit stew souvlaki: Kafeneion Sitisi
A beloved street food, souvlaki traditionally comprises pieces of grilled meat served in pitta. But in recent years, chefs have been coming up with their own twists. At Kafeneion Sitisi, rabbit is slow-cooked in tomato sauce and shredded before being wrapped in sourdough pitta, along with spiced mayo, lettuce, crispy onions and garlicky fried potatoes. Chilli jam adds sweetness.
6. Robata-grilled chicken: Birdman Athens
At this izakaya-style pub and grill, chef and butcher Ari Vezene pays homage to Japanese culture while celebrating Greek culinary heritage and ingredients such as Lakonia oranges, Halkidiki olives, Aegean sea urchin and chicken from Crete. Pull up a stool at the counter and watch as dry-aged meats are cooked on the robata grill. The menu includes tsukune — a hand-chopped chicken thigh kebab with shiso (a herb), as well as charcoal-grilled chicken liver and heart dipped in homemade tare (sweetened, thickened soy) sauce and seasoned with shichimi togarashi spice mix and lime zest.
Published in Issue 10 (winter 2020) of National Geographic Traveller Food
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