13 December, 2014

White Elephant @ Halandri

Visited White Elephant in Halandri.

Now in Athens there are Red Elephant, Pink Elephant and White Elephant and all of them are between Ambelokipi and Halandri. The Red and Pink Elephants are Indian restaurant and White Elephant is Japanese-Chinese, if I understood well the concept.

This is not sort of the restaurants I would get attracted, but it happened that a friend of ours bought a coupon of this place which she could not use in time and gave it to us. It cost 39.90 Euro for a sushi meal for 2.

The location is just by Agia Paraskevi metro station, which actually is in dimos Halandriou.

The premises have garden and a pool. It should be really nice in warmer seasons, but now it is winter and everyone was inside.

There were actually several groups & couples of people there, but we were taken to this corner maybe because we were with a coupon. Later another group with coupon were led here. Although we requested a table for non-smokers, the our actual table was next to (unofficial) smokers' corner and we needed to change tables.

The coupon included 2 glasses of wine (or sake) and 1 bottle of water, so we did not have to order anything to drink.

The 1st starter was prawn tempura and baby spinach salad, which was supposed to cost 16.50 Euro.

Here I have a disclosure: I lived in Japan for 30 years of my life.

And I say that the tempura butter here was wrong. It was too spongy. It was like home-made tempura than something made at restaurants. And, there was no sauce (in Japan, it is normally eaten with dashi dipping-sauce, or with some salt). I would call it a some Asian-fusion buttered prawns, which tasted good, if you don't think it was a tempura.

The other starter was edamame, which is young soybeans. In Japan, it is a favorite beer companion. It was quite good (it is difficult to go wrong with edamame), although I thought they put too much grainy sea salt.

First sushi was salmon and prawn nigiri. Here the rice was wrong; it was not cooked to core. Probably they did not use a good rice-cooker or did not use a right setting. The salmon and prawns were good. Original price is 8.90 Euro for a set of 3 each.

And 2 sorts of maki. 1 was salmon ura-maki with spicy mayo and the other was smoke salmon-maki with avocado. Original price is 9.80 Euro each (not each piece, but each bar).

There the problem with the rice persisted, but it was less noticeable because of the proportion of  fish and avocado was quite large. I'd prefer maki to nigiri here.

To finish was a glass of sorbet for 2. From the start, the waiters kept on saying that we would have lemon sorbet, but what actually arrived was strawberry sorbet. Weird. If they did not have lemon sorbet, they did not have to tell us that they would bring us lemon sorbet (more than once).

And they gave us normal receipt, which shows that the reduction on the coupon was genuine.

All in all, the food was not bad, especially for someone who is not actually Japanese (or Far-East Asians who have frequent contact with Japanese food). The price, however, seemed too high for the food they offer. If you do not mind paying extra for nice environment, it might be fine, but I do. I would rather pay for the food than for the interior decoration.

It is not my sort of restaurants, as I had suspected even before the visit.

And I did not like this statue at the entrance. What do you think?

Ag. Paraskevis 124, Halandri, Athens
Αγ. Παρασκευής 124, Χαλάνδρι, Αθήνα
Tel. 210-6855581

06 December, 2014

Walking around Omonia Square

I walked around Omonia Square on 28 November 2014 and these are photos that I took then.

The reason to uploading these pictures is to remember the current situation of the area.

Omonia is not one of the nicest areas of Athens. Or I'd rather say that it is almost a symbol of urban degeneration. Tourists are often warned: Do not go around Omonia and never book your hotel in the area even the rate is very attractive.

The fame of Omonia was such that a couple of years ago, two large hotels on the square, Acropol and 2 Fashion were closed down and they remain inactive since.

There were talks and attempts of revamping the square from time to time, but has never really accomplished. The government's latest project of renovation "Rethink Athens" (pedestrianization of Panepisthimiou Street, which runs between Syntagma Square and Omonia Square) has suffered a setback as the European Commission has decided against the funding recently. Athens is still trying to convince the EC to change its mind.

How is the situation now?

Here is the square.

It was 9 o'clock in the morning and there was nothing menacing. There was quite a lot of cars and commuters (I took pains to take the above shot without cars so that the view was unhindered).

As in the other areas of Athens, new bakeries have been popping up. I found a new outlet of Attika Artopoieia (this chain was used to be named Attiki Fourni, but has changed its name recently; I have no idea why).

Hondos Centre is still there. This is one of the flag shop of the retailer and has been here as long as I remember (the years I remember are not long, but at least 10 years). If you are interested, there is a cafeteria at the top floor and you can have a nice view.

There are many stalls selling koulouria. It is a bit similar to pretzel. In Turkey, these dry, circular and sesame-coated bread is called Simit and in both countries people eat it typically as breakfast or snack. It tastes unexpectedly better than it looks, especially when it is fresh. If you have never tried it, you should. One koulouri costs 50 to 60 cents.

A tyropita shop selling "Divine Cheese Pie". It is a shop called Gianniotiko, which has another outlet on Panepisthimiou Street. I don't remember that it had an outlet on Omonia Square. There is also a souvlaki shop of the same name just next to it.

The single most conspicuous change in the square, I believe, is the new outlet of Veneti bakery. It has also many tables and chairs in front of it.

The building was once occupied by a self-service restaurant-cafe called Neon, which had another outlet in Syntagma. Both were closed down. Although the premises in Syntagma were taken up by another restaurant, this one in Omonia had been unoccupied since 2010 till December 2013.

And to my surprise, I found a reminder of Neon on one of the tents of Veneti.

This is very nostalgic for people who know Athens for decades.


My walk did not end in Omonia. I walked into the area between Athinas Street and Tsandari (Pireos) Street, where is now an Indian-Pakistani-Chinese quarter. My impression, though, is that Indian-Pakistani-Bangradeshi are more eminent here and the Chinese on the other side of Pireos Street (so-called Keramikos area, which should not be confused with the area immediately by the Keramikos metro station, which is called 'Gazi').

At some points, you feel as if you are somewhere in India or Bangladesh. I guess this is a barber shop, judging from the sign of scissors.

And now there are many Indian/Pakistani fast food outlets. (This one was closed just because it was too early in the morning; many opens only after the lunch time).

An Indian/bangladeshi/Pakistani restaurant I have never heard of. Attractive.

It is situated on Geraniou Street, which once was too shady that even I would try to avoid. It is still not a nice and shiny, but it felt much better than before.

Another restaurant of which name you can read only if you know Arabic. As it says "Grill House", it should be a kebab place.

I remembered my days in Birmingham, UK.

Then I walked into Evripidou Street, behind the Vegetable section of  the Varvakio Central Market.

Here also, the feel was much less seedy than before.

This newly restored building is occupied by a new grocery shop with eat-in section, called Karamanridika tou Fani . It sells cured meat products of Sary and meze dishes to eat-in.

Just across is the street is another famous pastourmas shop, Miran.

And next to Miran is another of the genre, Arapian.

This part of Evripidou Street is now frequented by foodies, from Athens and abroad and it is almost a tourist attraction.

Overall, my impression from the area was positive. Although it is still a seedier part of Athens, but it did not look like a slam anymore.

Hope it gets even better!

30 November, 2014

Tomas Kebab @ Neos Kosmos

Last Sunday, the weather wasn't nice and GH did not have any good idea what to do. So I convinced him to explore a bit Neos Kosmos area of Athens.

I pass there more often than he do, to change Tram to Metro. I have seen some some interesting shops, but have had never chance explore it properly.

Our main destination of the day was a small kebab shop called Tomas.

Although it is a really small shop with only 3 or 4 stools, it is also quite famous because of its media exposure. Its specialty is Armenian kebab, Mr. Tomas being an 'Armenian'.

As many of you already know, Armenians came to Greece in various points in the history. Some came during the Ottoman period, many came after a disaster in Asia Minor and the subsequent Population Exchange, and also in more recent years. Because of this history, many 'Armenians' do not really look or sound different from the 'Greeks'.

The menu is shorter than typical one of ordinary souvlaki shops, but has some exotic choices like, Isli keftedes, falafel, hummus, or lachmatzoun. Main dishes are only kebab, chicken kebab, or chicken shish, and giaourtlou (i.e. the kebab with yogurt on top).

I ordered kebab in pita (1.90 Euro) and GH a giaourtlou (8.40 Euro with 4 kebabs). We took two stools and Mr. Tomas had his man serve us water and glasses.

At one point, 3 men came into the small shop and it got really stuffed. If you'd like to eat quietly, you'd better take out or, if you live nearby, have the food delivered.

Here is my kebab in pita.

The kebab was wrapped in a non-oiled pita together with sliced tomato, onion and parsley. As fried potato and tzatziki were absent, it was not as filling as normal souvlaki wrap and it almost tasted like healthy. Kebab itself was tasty and relatively dry as I like it.

GH's giaourtlou was like this.

From the bottom of the metal dish, there was a layer of pita, then yogurt, kebab, yogurt, tomato sauce, and spices on top. I like this less than mine, because kebabs got soggy due to moistness of yogurt. But, I do not like giaourtlou to start with, so you do not need to listen to me.

We bought also lachmatzoun to take away. As I ate it only the day after, having reheated it with microwave, I cannot really comment how nice it was, but can tell you that it was pretty hot, as Mr. Tomas warned us.

It was not the best kebab I have eaten, but the best ones I have eaten cost much more than 1.90 Euro. I found it a quite enjoyable snack. And it was nice to meet charming Mr. Tomas. So why not? It is just 3 minutes walk from Neos Kosmos Metro & Tram stations.

Tomas - Τομάς
Sarkoudinou 43, Neos Kosmos, Athens
Σαρκουδίνου 43, Νεος Κόσμος, Αθήαν
Tel. 210 9015981
(It does also delivery in neighboring area)

Afterward, we had coffees at a cafe restaurant called Pastor and then stopped at Kostis to buy some sweets.

It is such a pleasure to explore unknown areas of Athens.

29 November, 2014

Tarte Tatin @ Το Τσάι

Hello everyone,

I am testing something again.
This photo was taken by my Canon camera and transfered to my Android mobile phone using Wifi.
Although my mobile has a decent camera, real cameras still take better pictures.

By the way, this is a Tarte Tatin we ate yesterday at a tearoom called To Tsai in Kolonaki. The tart was too sweet for me, but the white tea called White Angel I had was quite good.

I believe that the place is non smoking, which is very important in winter.

We'd go back for some more tea.

27 November, 2014

Thalias Mezedotechnion @ Gyzi

Visited Thalia's in a Thursday evening.

It is not situated on a busy street; if you don't live in the area, there is a very little chance you find it by chance. But nowadays we search for restaurants on internet. If you do so, Thalia's is not difficult to find; it is very much discussed and praised.

And that was why we found ourselves at Thalia's.

The decor was more modern than I had imagined. Seeing the photos on the internet, there should be a courtyard, but in this season, the seating is limited to indoor space.

The menu is not very long, but there is a good variety. There are both meat and seafood & fish dishes. Our waiter, Giorgos, informed us that everything was made by his mother Thalia.

Again, according to information on internet, they came from the island of Tzia (Kea) to Athens and opened this place recently.

That evening we had a friend with us and could order more dishes than usual.

First to arrive was a salad. I don't recall the name (maybe Thalia's salad?), but do remember the contents. This is a mixture of tzatziki, tomato, onions on the bed of crashed smokey aubergine.

Mr. Giorgos suggested us to mix everything before we eat. First we ate tzatziki and aubergine separately, and afterwards we mixed it together. It was delicious in both ways.

Here is lachanodormades (cabbage rolls), from Today's dishes. Classic dish, made with good ingredients. When I eat lachanodormades in tavernas, sometimes I found the texture of the mince a bid odd. Probably because the mix something other than meat and rice. This version here was like your mother's; there is nothing incomprehensible inside.

These are pastourmadopita and hortopita. The pie dough was obviously handmade and, although were deep fried, there was no unpleasant oiliness. Only problem that some parts of dough were not cooked and remained raw, which was a shame.

Biftekia (burgers) were served with fried potatoes. The mince was evidently from a good cut and there was not tough bit. I would have preferred it with less oregano, but still it was good and juicy bifteki.

The last dish was fried cod and garlic sauce. I forgot to take the photo of cod, but I did the garlic sauce (skordalia). It was with walnuts. I ate it without bothering to put it on the fish.

At the end they offered us a free dessert of semolina halvas with orange peel.

Together with bread and half a kilo of red wine, the bill came to about 45 Euro, that is 15 Euro per a head. We all agreed that it was a good value for money for the quantity and quality that we got.

The location is a bit out of our way, but it is worth a trip; we would like to revisit to try other dishes.

Thalia's Mezedotechnion- Θάλειας Μεζεδοτεχνίον
Koutsikari 47, Gkyzi, 11522 Athens
Κουτσικάρη 47, Γκύζη, 11522 Αθήνα
Tel. 215 5207098

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