27.5.15

I ate lamb's brain at the finest restaurant in Greece

Orange explosion (source: www.funkygourmet.com)

We may be a country in the midst austerity, but Greece's capital still boasts a range of fine dining options. Three weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being exposed to the taste menu at Funky Gourmet, the culinary hot spot in Athens. Nestled in a quiet side street in the Keramikos neighborhood in the city centre, Funky Gourmet proudly harbors two Michelin stars. Yes, folks. Not one, but two big bad-ass stars. In a city riddled with tavernas, Funky is an outlier. And a good outlier. The chefs, Georgianna Hiliadaki and Nick Roussos, are young, hip, and have had training in Manhattan. They also happen to co-own the restaurant with another partner.

The restaurant itself  is housed within a beautifully charming neoclassical building, whose interior is minimalist black and grey. I tend to be critical of lighting in most restaurants, and the . I loved the design, despite the steep staircase where by the end of the evening, I almost lost my footing. Too much lovely wine courtesy of Domaine Gerovasiliou.

The dishes are whimsical, delicious, playful, with careful thought given to taste, texture, presentation, and the use of Greek elements. I keep forgetting we actually have truffles, and very good ones mind you, from the Greek mainland.

The menu procession as follows:

"Salsify in the soil". Greek bottarga with white chocolate, a crispy taco...

"Pastitsio", which felt in fact like a little cannelloni, but was beautifully flavourful and evoked memories of my childhood.

A "picnic", where they set up a red plaid napkin, followed by a BLT sandwich, the most moist meatball I ever tasted, some nuts, and a boiled egg.

Coulouri bread and cretan buttermilk, paired with Fresh Chios Beer

Topinambour ‘a la polita’

"Kakavia" fish soup Shabu, which was splendid.

Langoustine (it's a mini-lobster of sorts for those who are not familiar, which are very common in Greek cuisine) from the island of Chios.

A green risotto of snails entitled "earthy aromas". Brilliant, original, and delicious.

To clean the palate, one imagines some sorbet of lemon and ginger. Not here. We were presented with a sorbet ball of 'xoriatiki' (which translates to 'Greek salad'). The immediate taste was cucumber, followed by tomato, and a residual aftertaste of oregano. A very creative twist.

The Silence of the Lamb. A beautiful piece of lamb. The brain to be precise. Last time I had brain was in Mykonos during the feast of 'hirosfagia' in November of last year, but that was from a 100kg pig. It was

The feta cheese that wished to be a beetroot. It was a truffle of sorts, a ball of feta encapsulated by a gel of beetroot. Earthy and sweet in flavour. Lovely, just lovely.

Some dish I can't recall. I was starting to get light-headed by the copious amount of wine.

Chocolate soup. Enough said.

Orange explosion. This was the final display of culinary drama for the evening, with a bowl filled with real orange leaves, some chocolate truffles Waiters proceeded to fill the bowl with dry ice, after which we were allowed to actually have a hold of the chocolate delights. The sensation of a cold truffle exploding with the wondrous flavour of orange chocolate in one's mouth shall not be forgotten. Never. Ever.

*******

In closing, when you are next in Athens, try to pay a visit if you don't happen to be on a strict budget.


Address: 13 Paramythias St and Salaminos, Keramikos 104 35 Αθηνα / Athína
Phone: +302105242727
Website: www.funkygourmet.com

22.4.15

why Greek women live so long

Women in Greece up until now had longer telomeres than men and therefore outlived them, according to this Harvard University study. Take note of the over-representation of women in this vintage family photo (my great-grandmother sitting in centre, front-row).

My grandmother was a legend when it came to her cooking prowess. Her food was influenced by her upbringing in Asia Minor.



21.4.15

the laughing boy

Today is a sobering day. It marks the anniversary of the coup d'état of 21 April, 1974, the start of the Greek dictatorship which lasted a total of seven years. That regime was supported by the U.S. government and remains a dark chapter in Modern Greek history.

Maria Farantouri sang a memorable performance of a song at the first concert given by legendary composer Mikis Theodorakis in Greece after the fall of the dictatorship in 1974. The song is the popular song "To gelasto paidi" ("The laughing boy"), whose composition actually has its origins in Ireland.

The song is a call for the spirit of democracy, which should never be taken for granted.

Have a good evening folks.


19.4.15

#therealmykonos: Easter in the Aegean

Christos Anesti, to all. For those not familiar with that expression, it translates to 'Christ has risen', which all Greeks along the cascade of faith (from academic atheists to devout Greek Orthodox Christian grandmothers) say from midnight on Holy Saturday and onward for forty days. It is one week since I had the pleasure of spending Easter Sunday feasting in Mykonos. A massive thank you to Vicky Kousathana, my dear friend, who hosted me at the fabulous boutique establishment Terra Maria Hotel. My lovely room was conveniently situated over her uncle's bakery. Nothing like waking up in the morning with the beautiful fragrant smell of masticha.

My top-secret food project brought me to the island, and I will be sharing in the coming months some of the recipes and knowledge on my quest to discover a bit of old Mykonos on a plate. I have coined the hashtag #therealmykonos to underscore that there is much more to the island than sushi in the summer, and Moet champagne along the shores of Super Paradise Beach. Not to dispute the sheer fun associated with summer on the island, but there are layers of tradition which Mykonians value, and perhaps that is no more evident than around Easter. Hence, my visit.
Preparing glorious kouloures (the Easter bread-coils, a specialty in Mykonos) by Yannis Vamvakouris in his bakery during Holy Week 


My friend Thanassis' mom prepared a legendary feast on Sunday along with her husband and children. This was the centerpiece at the table.


The patriarch. Mr. Panagiotis Kousathanas. The man is a legend when it comes to meat. Responsible for the lamb, kokoretsi, giaxni, and kodosouvli.


The group of friends.


Afternoon in Gialos.


Kodoslouvi.

Until next time, my friends.

26.3.15

happy independence, Motherland

In the spirit of freedom and history, wanted to extend a happy Greek Independence Day to all our friends, and neighbours. I am a patriot, not a nationalist, of note.

Traditionally, we eat our version of fish and chips in Greece on March 25th, although instead of chips, we munch on a flavourful thick garlic sauce called skordalia which complements the fish itself. Oh, and the fish tends to be cod. Check out a recipe from The Cooking Odyssey here.



Work entitled PARIS-ATHÈNES: Didier Martin