By the breaking wave: Tavern «Ta Kymata» in New Epidavros, Greece (Παρα θιν’ αλος: Ταβερνα «Τα Κυματα» Νεα Επιδαυρος, Ελλας)
Δευτέρα, 17 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2012
I continue to be in the «breaking wave» mood, in spite of the fact that the first autumn rain drops pelted the dry soil since yesterday.
Three and a alf years ago I wrote about Nikos Varverakis’ tavern in New Epidavros.
Today I return to find the same values and, fresh seafood, fresh as ever, and cooked with respect to Nature.
It is only natural to visit Nea Epidavros (a small village 20 km northeast of Palea Epidavros) and Nikos Varverakis’ tavern after a visit to the Theater and the Asclepeion in Palea Epidavros.
The first thing I asked for was the octopus. I remembered that last time I had tasted it simmered in wine and it was delicious.
I was not disappointed. First of all, the octopus was small, which means fished locally. Second, the head was «dirty», which means untouched, with all the delights of the sea left intact.
This is the reason why seafood is better consumed fresh. Can you imagine eating a frozen octopus with a «dirty» head? I cannot.
However, it is not enough to have a really fresh small octopus. Cooking it is a real challenge, as it can be so easily destroyed.
Nikos is a master in simmering the octopus in wine until it reaches perfection. The sauce was so good, that whatever was left I ate with the fish!
The greens that accompanied the fish were vlita, boiled to perfection, served with real olive oil.
One of the most abused greens, vlita, when fresh and young is so tender that it is usually overboiled and destroyed, losing its colour to a murky muddy green-grey.
Not in Nikos’ tavern. Silky leafs, melting in your mouth, with tasty olive oil that dressed them adequately to the extent that no lemon was needed.
Now to the fish. Nikos recommended – and of course I accepted – fried cod.
Cod fished in the local waters is a small fish, nothing compared to the 5-10 kg fish of the Atlantic.
It is tasty, has very few bones, but it has to be super fresh, otherwise it is no good.
Not to mention the frying. The oil has to be «fresh» because the flavor of the flesh is very subtle. A reused oil can spoil a perfectly good fish.
Not in Nikos’ tavern.
The cod was fried to perfection, and it was so fresh that I could literally see the gelatin flowing out of the fish.
Needless to say, I will – one day – return.
«Except for the times of suffering, as of fear, I would think that the worst moments are those of pleasure because the hope for them and the memory of them, which occupy the rest of our lives, are better and much more pleasant than the pleasures themselves.»
Memorable sayings of Filippo Ottonieri, Giacomo Leopardi
Σάββατο, 1 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2012
I continue to be in a «breaking sea wave» mood, and there is no better place to have lunch when you are in this mood than the beach itself, especially when the tables are less than one meter away from the breaking wave!
There was a nothern wind of medium strength, and the wave was breaking indeed!
The fresh wind comes from the Aegean, passing from the Southern tip of Evoia.
This wind has a cleansing effect on me.
It strips away all the mumbo-jumbo that clutters my Being and helps me see into my true (authentic) nature.
The breaking sea wave is my satori catalyst.
Unfortunately this glimpse into the true me does not last for very long.
However, I consider myself fortunate that it lasts even for a few seconds.
In any case, having achieved the «satori» state, I had to go for the unadulterated, pure taste of the fish.
The colorful salad that came as a prelude, acted as an evangelist for the main course.
A fresh sea bass, grilled to perfection.
Words fail me.
In addition to the subtle aroma of the sea, I was deeply absorbed by the gelatinous texture of the moist flesh.
The more fresh the flesh, the higher the gelatine effect.
But I must confess that a thought crossed my mind.
Given the quality of the fish, how would it be to have half of it served raw by Mizutani, and the other half grilled?
For the time being I will stay with the thought stuck in my mind. It may be a while before Mizutani visits Marathon.
Fresh grapes, cut a minute ago from the vines providing the very welcome shade, took away the aromas of the sea and brought Dionyssus to the table.
Ora sono ubriaco
I am now drunk
from the universe
Τρίτη, 12 Οκτωβρίου, 2010
A touch of the unforeseen landed me on the island of Paros for a short visit in October. The tourist season in Paros is very short, only three months, June, July, September. As a result in the first half of October the options for a decent meal to the visitor are limited.
Initially I wanted to go to Ventouris, a fish tavern I have enjoyed in the past, but as I have heard the tavern was closed. Instead, I opted for the fish tavern of Damianos, 100 meters from Ventouris. Here is my report.
The tavern is literally by the sea. However, the days before my arrival there were quite strong winds that prevented the fish boats from fishing. The result is that the fresh fish available was minimal (literally). When nature tries you you have to resort to the means by which man has been able to preserve food. In this case, salt curing provided the answer to the question: «what do you recommend for today?»
Manos brought to me the red mullet fillets that have been salt cured, then thoroughly cleaned from the salt and stored in olive oil, thin slices of garlic and rosemary. The taste was wonderful, intense, full of flavor, and the flesh juicy and firm. Eduardo, the Peruvian who has made Paros his home for the last 15 years, told me the story of the dish. It started from a village on the Peloponnese and was modified by Damianos, the owner of the tavern.
The next delicacy was salt cured frissa, the large sardine fished in the waters of the Aegean. Here what impressed me was the balance of the salty taste, and the moist flesh of the fish. One thing is obvious, Damianos knows how to salt cure fish!!!
The island of Naxos can be seen from Ambelas. It is less than 5 nautical miles away. Manos told me that they had received some nice potatoes from Naxos. they boiled them, dressed them with olive oil, and served with parsley, onions and capers which grow in abundance on Paros. I Was lucky to taste this dish, that in its simplicity was magnificent!!!! The flesh of the potato was sweet, soft and almost creamy. The combination with the onions and the capers was harmonious.
This dish of assorted vegetables came to partner with the main protein dish of the meal, chick peas!!! Chick peas grown on the island of Paros are limited in quantities but delicious. They cook them in the oven with plenty of onions and herbs (mainly oregano). They are soft, tender, and have smoky flavor.
At the end, a simple and delicious local sweet, called «patsavouropita», literally translated as «rag-pie». It is made with fillo, and a mix of eggs, milk, flower, and a bit of lemon peel.
Eating is Damianos was a pleasure of discovery of the technique and joy of salt curing done with expertise and skill. But the potatoes with the onions and the capers topped the bill for me as the simplest and most flavorful dish. Talking to Eduardo after the meal, he promised to me that next time (assuming that fish and seafood will be available) he will prepare the original Peruvian cheviche. For those who have tasted the original Peruvian cheviche, this sounds like a very good reason for another quick visit to Paros. Thank you Eduardo, Manos, and Thodoris, for a wonderful meal and your hospitality.
Παρασκευή, 12 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2008
I have started going to this tavern in 2004. It was colleagues from Thessaloniki who took me there, and started drinking tsipouro from the moment they sat down. Apparently the owner – chef is from the North and serves two types of tsipouro, with and without anise (Pimpinella anisum). But this is not about tsipouro, it is about seafood, so I better get down to it!
Over the four years that I visit the tavern regularly, it has evolved for the better and is now at a level that I can recommend it as one of the best seafood places in Athens, without any doubt.
Its name plays with two greek words, one being «psari» ie fish and the other «ariston» ie best. By combining the two words, the imaginative owners imply that they serve the best fish, «ps-ari-ston», a word that does not exist in the greek dictionary. But this is not about language, it is about seafood, so I better get down to it!
The inside of the tavern is – on purpose – a kitsch assortment of above average proportions. In a strange way, you have the feeling you are on an island.
The «Psariston» salad is quite fresh and creative, as it has tomatoes, some feta cheese, olive oil, capers, parseley, balsamico and lightly marinated gavros.
The «married fava» dish is also very good, as it combines the «fava» with tomatoes, onions, ans capers.
The octopus dish that came next is another interesting combination: sliced grilled octopus, hot peppers, crushed feta cheese and fresh tomato cubes all in one!
The grilled «chtenia» came next, they were juicy and loaded with flavour! (I cannot translate their name.)
Finally, the medium sized grilled squid was tender and sweet. Perfect!
Practical Info. The tavern is right next to the AB Grocery Store opposite the Olympic Stadium on Kimis Avenue. It is better to call in advance so that they give you instructions, or even better, get a taxi, so that you can enjoy the good ouzo and wine served.
Psariston, Kalavriton 16, Neo Herakleio,
Κυριακή, 24 Αυγούστου, 2008
For those who want to capture the flavours of the Aegean, as fresh as you can get them, the «Limanaki» Tavern in Neos Pyrgos on the northern tip of Evia is the place to go.
The tavern is literally on the small harbour of fishing boats that venture out in the Aegean every day for a catch. The village of Neos Pyrgos is small and its big neighbour, Orei, has all the big fishing boats. Neos Pyrgos has the small ones, and this is why you can eat fish that has been literally hooked, and not caught in the nets.
Limanaki is the favourite place of the fishermen when they return in the morning. You can see them having «tsipouro» (the local grappa, or eau de vie) eight o’clock in the morning, while Nikos, the Limanaki proprietor prepares a nice meze for them.
Enough of all that, lets now get to the food.
In the summer, it is essential to start with ultra tender green beans, called «ambelofassoula».
After that you can have prawns grilled to perfection, that I suggest you eat without taking the head off. Its full of flavours and deliciously crunchy.
What comes naturally next is whole fried little fish, called «atherina».
The grilled cod that comes to conclude the set has been caught on hook. The fish is sweet, the flesh is firm and has nothing on it but coarse salt. Just add a little olive oil and lemon and you have it.
Κυριακή, 3 Αυγούστου, 2008
The first dish was «Asparagus of the Sea». They come from the island of Lefkada. Incidentally, I saw some «greens of the sea» similar to them in the fish market in Venice, but do not recall how they are called in Italian.
The taste of sea prominent, crunchy and enjoyable.
He then served «Stuffed Mushrooms». They had cheese, shrimps and clams with white wine. Quite tasty.
When it came to the fish, the chef recommended «katsoules», a fish very popular in Piraeus and the Saronic Gulf Islands. They are like flattened red mullets. They are very tasty and juicy, although they are considered to be a humble fish.
To wrap the meal up, the chef brought another «B» fish, from the sea lake of Messolonghi, called «stiradi».
The fish was grilled in «butterfly» mode, as you can see in the picture. Lightly fatty, juicy, tasty, great choice!!!
Overall, if you ever visit Athens, grab a cab and go to Kollias. You will not regret it.