This is my FIRST rating of a restaurant; I read ratings, but I don’t usually bother write them. This restaurant, called “E/G Taxideuontas,” based at Platonos 72, at Keratsini, a blue-collar neighborhood in the vicinity of Piraeus. Well, as I drove there, most traces that characterize a section of town as “blue collar” were patently gone! Lots of nice bars, youth hangouts, fast-food joints, taverns, and clubs… From the lights and bustle of the place, it felt that the Greek crisis has yet to make its presence felt there!
What about first impressions? Well, the place is what we call warm and inviting! The staff is extremely friendly, without being overbearing, a common trait in Greek restaurants. They have menus, but because many of their dishes are unique, both the owners and staff, are ready to ask you what you crave and then offer recommendations.
One thing that must be mentioned is freshness… Their produce is not merely fresh… I could swear the things twinge every now and then… One can tell by the taste but I am moving too fast!
Having had fresh fish in Greece, I was primarily interested in appetizers, rather than main dishes; now mind you, that most of the so-called appetizers will fill you up good! Our group of five people, ordered the following:
FISH SOUP: The fish soup was made from red porgy fish-heads. Fish heads are largely ignored by most, but are rich in taste and nutrients and soup made of those is simply unbeatable. Of course, it is carefully filtered, so you only enjoy the rich broth!
FRESH RAW SEA URCHIN ROE is actually understated! It literally smells like being at sea! Close your eyes, inhale deeply and slowly, and you are transported miles away. This is for sushi lovers, and only THEY will understand what I’m writing about…
SALAD: Forget organic tomatoes from natural stores back in the States… We are talking an entirely different animal… Flavorful peeled tomatoes, cut in a long ribbon and decorated with capers and “kritamo,” a wild-celery variant, collected right at the water’s edge at the island of Chios. Instead of salt, “salt-buds” are used… That is naturally dried salt on rocky formations and carefully scraped off the rocks, collected and purified.
“LAKERDA,” a form of bonito fish, that migrates from the Black Sea, requires long preparation and when found in restaurants, it’s usually store bought! This restaurant actually prepares it on site! It’s like sushi, however, it’s very salty, which amazingly does not mummify the fish into chewable slabs, but gives it the consistency and tenderness of lox-salmon.
OCTOPUS: Fried that is… Now this is a “first” even in Greece! I dislike fried food, and my first inclination was to refrain from ordering it! However, my brother (whaaaat? He NEVER eats octopus!) shocked me by ordering it, so I grabbed a tentacle and mmmm…. It’s a heart-wrenching pity that my cholesterol is above 200… I was very curious so I asked the owner how on earth he managed not to turn an octopus into a hard piece of silicon ribbon… Well, he inserts it in a clay pot and immerses it in olive-oil and vinegar and leaves it for 20 days before its dropped in the pan!
SARDINES: Fresh grilled sardines… Need I say more?
SHRIMP: These microscopic critters are called “gambari” (I’m Greek and I’ve never seen that kind of shrimp…) simply boiled in olive-oil, a drop of water, squeezed lemon and oregano! How they taste? Wonderful!
SHELLS: “Stonetubes” – Now this is another sample of Greek food, I had never encountered; these are elongated clam-shells with plenty of tender flesh… These are steamed and served in a soup-plate with a touch of olive-oil, salt and (I think) garlic and lemon.
Now, the surprise of the day… Seaweed… Now I really doubt this is a traditionally Greek dish, but introduced to Greece, by gourmet cuisine introduced to Greeks before the “lean years” settled in. When it was first brought to the table, I was disappointed, because I thought… I can get this in any Japanese restaurant in Boston and I do not like their chewy characteristics and rather lame taste… However, I was surprised; their seaweed was actually very-very tender!!! I was also surprised that it’s farmed locally, thus, the Mediterranean, due to (I believe) higher salt and iodine content gives both fish and plants a greater sensation to the palate!
My brother, as a genuine carnivore, ordered “bifteki” a Greek version of beef hamburger… Hamburger?!?!??? Everyone at the table exclaimed? Who on Earth would order meat in a fish restaurant? Well, he was moaning with pleasure, so despite my distended stomach, I tried a morsel, and I SWEAR! My next visit will be for that “bifteki” tender, crispy on the outside, exploding with taste, simply amazing!
Then the restaurant offered deserts and fruits! (some of them free samples) I declined, but my friends advised me against it; so I pretty much sampled (to my stomach’s dismay as it could not take any more food) everything on the table… The deserts were numerous and unbelievably tasty and fresh! We all sadly stared at the leftover desert on the table, because we simply could not eat any further. I was literally bending forward as my stomach was in overdrive trying to digest all the “appetizers” I gobbled-up!
Final evaluation? Well, I would not sit down and write for so long if I did not love the place! On every visit to Greece, I intend to visit that gastronomical temple; if they offered rooms, I would have moved there! It’s a typical Greek place, relatively inexpensive---considerign the quality, and effort invested in making this food---where fame is achieved through friends and acquaintances; it has a strong following, so on Thursday’s, Fridays, and weekends, it’s literally packed with loyal patrons, who drive from the furthest fringes of Athens, a no small feat, considering the size of the city and its appalling traffic!
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