28 December, 2012

GouGou Meze @ Panepisthimio

A week before the Christmas, we found ourselves near Syntagma at around 9 o'clock.

Not wanting to cook at home, we decided to try out a new mezedopoleio near Panepisthimio. I think it was there since this summer.

It is called GouGou Meze. Glass-walled shop with colourful interior looks quite attractive.

Even it was a Wednesday, the place was almost full. We thought it was because of the time of the year (people getting together for Christmas and the End of the year), but a waiter said it was always busy. I do not know if I am to believe it.

The menu is pretty long. There are many mezedes and also about a dozen of main dishes.

As the main dish we wanted was exhausted, we ordered some mezedes only.

Instead of bread, we were given warm (probably freshly-baked) pita, together with many green olives. The pita was very good being partly soft and partly crispy.

The place was rather cold because of the glass walls. Not wanting cold salad, we had a serving of horta. Good.

Lemony Pork Tigania was not a good choice. It had a nice flavour, but the portion was small and the quality of meat wasn't satisfying containing some sinew. I suspect the meat was cut so small as to hide the poor quality.

Fried potatoes were fine. Tasted freshly cooked and not from freezer.

Bougiourdi turned up when we were about to finish the other dishes. It came in a big portion.

At the end of the meal we were offered these cakes and ypovryhio (Greek sugary paste-like sweet).

With a big jug of beer and all the above cost us about 26 Euro. But, as we were not given the receipt, it would be unfair to say it was cheap.

Gougou Meze
Sina 6, Kolonaki
Tel. 210 3645575

ΓκουΓκού Μεζέ
Σίνα 6, Κολωνάκι
(The nearest Metro station is Panepisthimio)

Tree decoration near Hilton Hotel was merry and cheerful without being ostentatious. I liked it.

25 December, 2012

Biftekopoleio @ Kallithea

Happy Christmas to you all! I guess you are eating all sorts of nice things and in big quantity. I am suffering from sugar-overload and, regrettably, the gym is closed until Thursday. Ooups

While on Christmas shopping expedition, we ended up in Kallithea and looked for somewhere to eat. I wanted to go to a politiko grill called Tamam, but on arrival I found that the owner had changed and it was now a normal grill.

In itself it might not be a bad thing, but seeing that it did not look fully open or closed (it was around 5 in the afternoon), we walked toward Davaki Square in search of something else.

Then we arrived here: Biftekopoleio, since 1960.

It is not a restaurant, but a grill with counter. They do delivery as well. And it is open only 10:00 to 17:00.

We decided to give it a go, as it looked quite busy and lively. The girls serving at the counter were very friendly.

As it is called Biftekishop, we ordered biftekia in pita (2 Euro a piece).

In the pita, there are only biftekia (beef/veal burgers), tomato and onion. Things were kept very simple like at Thanasis in Monastiraki, save that Thanasis does kebab.

The combination of fluffy pita and juicy biftekia was really good. Because the ingredients are minimum (no tzatziki, no potatoes), I felt like eating a biftekia sandwich. The quality of the meat might not be great seeing that I found a small piece of bone in the bifteki, but still the biftekia were great.

It is quite small and you shall have to eat at least two to get satisfied, but it is a sort of thing you shall crave for from time to time.

We ordered also one pork skewer in pita for 2 Euro.

To our disappointment, it was pretty mediocre. The meat did not say much.

If you order a portion (merida), instead of pita wrap, 4 biftekia, 2 pitas, grilled tomato and onion cost you 7.50 Euro. Tzatziki is 2.50 Euro and they do not seem to have fried potato at all (at least it is not on the menu).

Not a great meal place, but it is a perfect snacking spot.

Davaki 59, Kallithea
176 72, Athens
Tel. 210 9512929

Δαβάκη 59, Καλλιθέα

From 10:00 to 17:00

22 December, 2012

Lolita's Mezedes @ Petralona

Petralona is becoming a new Gazi of Athens. Taking advantage of relatively low rent of the area, many entrepreneur-restaurateurs have opened/ are opening small tavernes and mezedopoleia targeting at younger generations.

One Sunday evening, we visited one of such meze restaraunts there: Lolita's Mezze Bar. "Mezze Bar", because it wants to be a tapas bar offering Greek small dishes.

THE strong point of the place is surely its cheeful decoration. Either you might like it or not, you cannot deny that it is quite original. Lots of colour and bald paintings. Don't forget to go to the toilets and admire the painted door of Gentlemen's room.

The menu is not very long, but there are also several dishes-of-the-day (there is a sample menu on their website, but the prices are not up-to-date as I see it now). You should be able to find something you would like to try. The food are Greek, but often with twist.

Bread - mixed basket of black and white - accompanied with cheesy spread was fine, but too little for 3 persons (0.80 Euro p.p.)

Pantzarosalata was beetroot salad with walnuts and pickled cabbage. There were also beet leaves at the bottom. Fine. 4.80 Euro.

Baby potatoes with rosemary were quite salty, but also tasty. It costs 2.80 Euro and comes in a very small tapas dish.

Squash-pies was one of the dishes of the day. Squash was mixed with white cheese and mint (this is common combination in Greece). Home-cooking taste. Surely over-priced for 6. Euro, as they are small (6-7 cm long each).

Biftekia yaourtlou were not much yoghurty. The biftekia (burgers) were fine except that they were a bit too charred making them too bitter. 8.50 Euro.

Chicken morsels with hot sauce served with cracked wheat. Marinated chicken was nicely sweet, but not hot. Cracked wheat was also well-seasoned and wasn't bland. 8.50 Euro.

At the end they offered us a round of shots of limoncello.

The service was quick and unobtrusive. Our waitress was sweet and pleasant-mannered.

The total bill with a bottle of coke came to 35 Euro.

Taste-wise, it was satisfying, but the price was not particularly cheap considering that we did not eat much and portion size is relatively small. For example, if you order biftekia at casual tavernes, you often get a plate almost of full meal for 8.50 Euro, while here it is just a big meze.

This is a right place to drink wine picking some dishes, but for full meal, I would prefer to go elsewhere.

Lolitas Mezze Bar
Δωριέων 26 Αθήνα 118 52, Ελλάδα
Tel. 211 4013574

18 December, 2012

Are There Too Many Municipal Employees in Piraeus?

Today I had an opportunity to look into the status of Piraeus municipality and I want to share it with you, although probably you - if you live in Greece - know better than me.

Some weeks ago, the company I work for received a letter from the Municipality of Piraeus. It was about an unpaid fine dating back to 2008. We received two other such letters from other municipalities (Δήμοι). Evidently they are digging up old penalty records looking for anything un-paid.

Anyway, the letter was saying that the company has to pay 80 Euro at the Municipality or by sending a postal cheque, if there is no objection. In our office, there is no one who has been working since 2008, so there was no way to object.

Before I continue, I think it is worth mentioning that the two other municipalities that fined us gave us a possibility to pay at the post office. But not Dimos of Piraeus.

The letter was saying that I had to go to the 2nd floor and it was there I went first.

When I showed the letter to an employee, she told me that I had to go to the 5th floor, because the letter should be processed.

Classic. Why couldn't you write so in the letter?

I went to the 5th floor and entered the office of traffic fine. There were 5 or 6 employees inside and no one evidently was in a position to receive citizens. As there was a woman who was not doing anything (she was seated with both of her elbows on the desk and her head on her hands - not a position that anyone who is going to work would take). She shouted to her colleagues "which girl can process the letter?".

There was another woman who was seated in front of computer and chatting with a colleague, who was smoking - smoking in public space is against the law in Greece -, about the projected dismissal of municipal and other civil servants.

She told me to come to her. She took the letter from my hand, checked something with her computer and wrote 5 digit number on it. Then she told me to go down to the 2nd floor, giving it back to me.

Again at the 2nd floor, I gave the letter to another employee. She checked again something with her computer and printed 2 pieces of paper. Giving back everything to me, she told me to go to the employee next to her to pay.

I did as I was told and paid the fine. End of the journey.

Leaving the Town Hall, I was asking to myself how it was possible for the municipality to need so many employees to collect 80 Euro fine from me? It was exactly a "How many blonds are needed to change a light bulb - Five" situation.

In Greece, many public jobs were created only to create employments. The country went bankrupt and the circumstances have supposedly changed, but inside some of the public offices, things are continuing unchanged.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw on TV the Mayor of Piraeus saying that his municipality was suffering from lack of workforce, because it has not been getting new employees for years. When I saw it, I felt a bit of sympathy for him, but now I have to take it back. If he could not employ new workers, he should have streamlined the bureaucracy and tried to make the best of the resources he had. Evidently he was not capable and he should not be proud of.

With so much unnecessary red tape, there shall never be enough municipal employees in Piraeus.

16 December, 2012

Mexican at the Foot of Acropolis

(The photos were taken with i-Phone and are not as good as the usual camera photos. Apologies).

It has been quite a while that I wanted to visit this Mexican restaurant, reputed to be THE ONLY real Mexican in Athens, Rincon Mexicano. And finally the opportunity turned up.

Here it is.

It is situated in Koukaki or Makryanni District of Athens and it takes 5 min walk from Acropolis Metro station.

Knowing that the restaurant is super-small, I booked a table in advance, at 6 o'clock on a Wednesday (they told me that the place is open from 3 o'clock in the afternoon).

When I arrived at 6 o'clock, I learnt it wasn't that necessary. It was totally empty and it continued to be so until around 7:30. Then the tables quickly filled up and it was full-ish at 8. When we left at 8:30, there were people waiting for table.

Based on this experience, my advice would be that if you want to make sure to be able to eat here, either you get there before 7:30 or reserve a table.

The interior is quite humble and the décor does not say much. Besides, although there was no ash tray on the table, there were people who were smoking. Fortunately they were not many, but if there were, it would be a hell, as the space is very small.

The menu is composed of starters, salad, side dishes, cooked to order dishes (or, dishes of the day), and Mexican specialities, about 20 items in total. Not many, but the place being so small, I think it is wise to keep the menu short.

This time we were four, so we picked various dishes randomly and shared among us.

For the drink, we ordered 1 Margarita and a half litre of Sangria. Sangria costs 6 Euro, which I think is not cheap considering that it is just a mixture of wine and juice. In fact, half a litre of wine also costs 6 Euro, which is again expensive by Greek taverna standard.

And the food. Guacamole was from "side dish" section.

Tasted fresh and quite good. 3 Euro.

And another side dish, Nachos, 1.50 Euro.

The white stuff on top is cream cheese and the red is chopped tomatoes.

Here is tacos dorados from "Cooked to Order" or "Dishes or the Day" section.

Corn tortilla was filled with chicken and roasted (or in reverse order?). On top are salad, salsa and cream cheese. Crunchy tortilla had a nice flavour. 5.50 Euro.

Tacos Barbacoa is with soft tortilla instead. Sorry for the lousy photo.

Filling was pork roasted in banana leaf (not that I saw the banana leaf, but it was the description printed on the menu). Served with salad, cream cheese and rice. The meat had a delicate orange taste. 7 Euro.

This is Tamales de Etole from Mexican Specialities section of the menu.

Corn flour dough filled with chicken and cooked in corn leaves. We enjoyed corn flour flavour. 5 Euro.

Chili con Carne came quite liquid.

The quantity of meat was rather disappointing, but the soup had a very distinct chili flavour and all of us agreed this was the best dish of the day. We even ordered the second serving. 5 Euro.

As the portions were small, we added two burritos.

Here are burritos with meat. The brown sauce that looks like sauce is stewed beans.

This costs only 4.30 Euro. Very good value for money.

Here is vegetarian burrito.

I think the filling was the bean stew in the above photo and rice. Different from the meat burrito, this was either baked or fried.

At this point we were moderately satisfied and, seeing people waiting for tables, asked the bill. It was about 12-13 Euro per a head with everything together. Not dead-cheap, but well below you expect to pay in ethnic restaurants in Athens.

One thing that I noticed was that the smallness of the portion. It is all right, as the price is accordingly low. However, in my opinion, the Greeks prefer to see more food on each dish even paying for more money. Visual satisfaction is very important for them. That said, if you want to try different dishes, these Mexican mzedakia are good samplers.

Probably worth mentioning that all four of us liked the food. Definitely worth trying for the sake of food, if not for the environment.

Rincon Mexicano
Dimitrakopoulou 5, Koukaki, Athens, Greece
Δημητρακοπούλου 5 , Κουκάκι
Tel. 211 4063349

09 December, 2012

Rakokazano @ Chalandri

Yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, we found ourselves in Chalandri, because I went to vote at the Consulate. Our Embassy/ Consulate is soooo far from the centre and it is a real trip as far as you do not live in the northern Athens.

Anyway, as we went to a part of Athens we usually do not go, we decided to eat something somewhere close. After a short walk at the centre of Chalandri, we stranded into Ifikleous & Irakliou Streets full of cafeterias.

Although there are many cafeterias, the restaurant was only this one: Rakokazano. It looked busy, although it was at around 5 o'clock, neither lunch nor dinner time. We decided to enter.

It is a restored old building and the seating area extends on three floors, i.e. the ground floor, 1st floor (where there are toilets and kitchen), and the terrace. The terrace should be nice in warmer seasons. We settled at the ground floor, but it wasn't a good idea, as every time someone opens the door, the cold wind hit us.

The decor is modern rustic. Nice.

It is a modern mezedopoleio with some Cretan influence. So, by default, it is rather expensive. If I remember well, the cheapest dishes start from around 5.50 Euro. Even fried potatoes cost that much. There is no cheaper option like tzatziki. The mezedes are between 5.50 and 10 and a small selection of main dishes is above 10 Euro.

Not wanting to spend much, we chose only 3 dishes with prudence.

Instead of salad, we ordered stir-fried horta.

I am not sure what horta it was, because there was chopped in small pieces and contained a good dose of other herbs. The smell of mint was strong. Interesting.

Here is Pork tigania with Graviera cheese. I think it was 9 Euro.

9 Euro for tigania is pretty expensive, but at least there is a good quantity of lean meat. I have never seen graviera cheese (the white cubes in the photo) cooked in this way.

Kotopita (chicken pie) appeared in a strange flat form.

The filling was something like cheesy white sauce with very small quantity of chopped chicken meat. Tasted all right, but is it worth - I think - 6.80 Euro?

We ordered also a half kilo of red wine (0.5 l). Eating above stuff together will bread filled our stomach quite nicely. The total bill was 26.50 Euro, i.e. 13.25 Euro per person including wine. The trick here was not to order many dishes, because each dish is pretty expensive.

Anyway, the reason I am not sure about the prices is because they brought us a receipt like this. It is a formal receipt, but more than half is not legible.

The service is ok, as it was not overwhelmingly busy. The food was served quickly and we were in the ground floor where the waiters stationed.

It is not the kind of place you should travel to visit, but if you live in the area, I guess it is pretty much acceptable.

Irakliou 1, Chalandri, Athens
Ηρακλείου 1, Χαλάνδρι, Αθήνα

04 December, 2012

American House Toast @ Piraeus

This is probably one of the oldest restaurants in Passalimani. GH the genuine Piraeot said so. As a fast food place, this might well be the oldest.

It was evidently inspired by American diner and fast food joint. I would not be surprised if it was aimed at the American military visitors.

I don't quite understand who is this American collage graduate, but she indeed is a "cult" icon.

Entering inside the place, you go to the counter to place the order, just as in MacDonald's or at Goody's. If it takes some time to cook, you just take a sheet and relax; a waiter will bring you the food. You pay at the counter and not to the waiter.

On the menu are burgers, sandwiches, spaghetti, grilled meat, salad, all in junk food style.

GH ordered club sandwich.

It does not look appetizing, but GH said it was better than the club that he had eaten at Goody's the day before.

The waiter brings you also bottles of ketchup and mustard. Very good service.

I should have ordered burger, but did not want to eat meat. That was why I ended up ordering "Fish fillet". In the photo, it looked like fish & chips, but it wasn't exactly so.

The fish was obviously frozen pre-prepared breaded haddock. It was served with chips (frozen, but acceptable), lettuce salad, olives, and something white to the left.

I expected this to be tartar sauce, but, to my surprise, it turned out to be melitzanosalata.

This dish was served with bread (left upper corner in the photo) and GH ate it all smearing with melitzanosalata.

With 2 cans of Pepsi (there is not Coca Cola), the bill was about 15 Euro.

The food wasn't particularly attractive, but the place is a Cult. We did not regret to have visited it. We might go back to try the cheese burgers.

Defteras Merarchias 29
2ας Μεραρχίας 29
Piraeus, 18535
Tel. 210-4296276