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Eating around Greece and the islands - a short, cheap report

Nyleve Aug 10, 2006 11:24 PM

Just back from our whirlwind 2-1/2 week trip around Greece. It was fabulous and I admit I was shocked at how good the food was. I'm going to post some miscellaneous thoughts, in no particular order.

First - I was travelling with 3 friends who would eat no unkosher meat. So I was worried that this would limit my dining experience. Au contraire, as it turned out. We ended up eating most meals as shared mezedes - which I think is where Greek cuisine shines. What those people can do with an eggplant! Anyway, we ate some stunningly delicious versions of standard dishes like taramasalata, eggplant salad, gigantes (giant beans), tzatziki, etc., etc., etc. It was actually a wonderful way of sampling a bazillion different dishes - without the agonizing commitment of having to choose a single main dish. If I felt meat-deprived, I just ordered a meat thing. But mostly I was extremely happy.

Fish is horrifyingly expensive. I am not exaggerating. We went out for one fish dinner in Piraeus at Dourambeis which was really really good, but unconscionably pricey. I mean honestly - ONE SINGLE SEA BASS (ok, it fed 4 of us, but not lavishly) was over $100 (U.S.). ONE FISH!!! It was a delicious fish, very well prepared (grilled) but good grief. Their house salad was unbelievably good as were their merides (tiny fried whitings). It was a nice meal but outrageously overpriced, even given the price of fish at the market.

On the other hand, we had our single most wonderful fish meal in a tiny little village on the island of Sifnos. The village is called Chernissos (or Hernissos, depending) and the restaurant is called Ammodia (or Hammodia, depending). You go into the restaurant and pick the fish out of a big cooler - you pay by weight. Everything was caught right off the beach and absolutely killer fresh and delicious. Not expensive, considering. I think we paid about $20-ish per person and had wine and lots of mezedes and salads.

In Athens, I can recommend 2 tavernas that serve good food at reasonable prices: Byzantino (also known as Vizantino) and Psara Taverna, both in the Plaka. I'm sure there are lots more, but we ate at some others that were not quite as good.

If it's on the menu - try "dakos" (also sometimes known as "takos"). It's a layered salad with a sort of rusk bread on the bottom and usually tomatoes and feta on top. Occasionally it will also have olives and other stuff - really wonderful with ouzo!

I'm sorry but I found the food on Santorini overpriced and underwhelming. Maybe the result of too many tourists, but there were no great Chowfinds there.

Had a very good lunch in the town of Apiranthos on the island of Naxos - at O Platanos taverna on the main street (there's only one). I can't remember what we ate (my notes are incomplete) but I remember the food was good.

Always order the house wine. It's often as good or better than what you'll order in a bottle - especially if you're not an expert on Greek wines (which we were not). If the wine is awful (which occasionally it was) just don't drink it and order something else. But the house wine served in a jug is usually so cheap that it's worth the risk.

The yogurt is indescribably good. So I won't even try to describe it. Let's just say that right now I have a container of yogurt draining through a coffee filter in my refrigerator but it will be but a pale imitation of the Greek stuff.

Visit the central market in Athens if you have the time. It's fantastic. I came home with a suitcase full of (possibly) contraband food - olives, sundried tomatoes, oregano, pistachios, thyme honey, capers - I can't remember what else. Other people come home with worry beads and jewellery - I buy capers. To each his/her own.

Anyway - that's it. If I think of anything else to report, I'll post. It was a delicious trip.

  1. r
    RJPerri Aug 11, 2006 05:12 AM

    Sounds like a wonderful trip and am glad you enjoyed the food! The Dakos is actually a very famous Cretean salad, and one of my favorites as well! I am also glad you experienced Greek food the way it is best, lots of small dishes for everyone to share!

    1. e
      emilief Aug 11, 2006 08:42 PM

      Nice report. Yes,Dourambis is outrageously expensive but, having been to Athens about 16 times, I can say that it is one of the best places to eat in all of Greece. So, $100 fed four of you. Later on you say you had fish for $20 per person. Not much difference. Their salad is so scrumptious. Also, they have the best loukumades for dessert. Don't suffer- just be happy that you went there because it is truly the best.

      1 Reply
      1. re: emilief
        Nyleve Aug 11, 2006 09:11 PM

        Sorry - I can see how my post was confusing. The $100 (actually it was more like $120, now that I look at my notes) was JUST the fish. On top of that were the other dishes and the wine. I'm not going to say it was the most expensive meal I've ever had, but when you pay $120 for a single medium-sized fish, prepared simply (but deliciously, I agree) it just seemed a bit nuts. I can't remember how much the entire meal cost, but it was probably in the neighbourhood of $75 per person, and we were not stuffed. On the other hand, the $20 meal included everything - and way more fish, too - wine, salads, mezes and fruit for dessert. We had 3 different kinds of fish, grilled to within a hair of perfection. Oh and the fried potatoes were probably the best I've ever eaten anywhere.

        Please don't misunderstand - I very much appreciated the recommendation and we knew what we were getting into when we went there. It was definitely a worthwhile experience but I still am flabbergasted by 80 euros per kilo for a fish. Sad commentary on the likely condition of the Aegean fishery, if nothing else.

      2. r
        rdabke Aug 25, 2006 08:40 PM

        Must eat in Santorini: Domato Keftedes

        1 Reply
        1. re: rdabke
          Nyleve Sep 26, 2006 02:37 PM

          Yep. Delish. Forgot to mention.

        2. y
          yaddayadda Sep 16, 2007 05:19 PM

          Got back from Naxos a little while ago. I'm generally not impressed with food in Greece, let alone on the (tourist-trap) islands, but I found Naxos to be pretty decent. Highly recommended for all kinds of food including Greek.

          There is a nice Italian place on the way to St.George beach (it bills itself as the only resto serving real "al dente" pasta, and they may well be right) named after the lady owner, as well as a very nice and clean Thai-Indian-Chinese place around the corner on a side-street. The food there was decently and surpisingly authentic and well executed. (Sorry I cannot recall the names right now but, honestly, you can't miss them.)

          Hats off to the establishment owners of Naxos! They are at least trying to earn their keep.

          1. y
            yaddayadda Sep 16, 2007 05:20 PM

            In agreement about Santorini. Far past the cliche stage, the place has become quite a joke, food- and other-wise.

            2 Replies
            1. re: yaddayadda
              thegreekone Oct 10, 2007 07:49 PM

              Sorry I am coming to this late.

              Santorini is still one of the most beautiful places on earth. Yeah, it is over run with tourists. Like other tourist locations, there is good food, you just have to work harder to find it. I always thought that finding something off the beaten path or after a little work was part of the pleasure.

              1. re: thegreekone
                yaddayadda Nov 1, 2007 08:03 AM

                True enough, greekone. And likely what keeps making us go back.

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