Saturday, 26 March 2011

Bierhaus: Confused but Good

A good post deserves a good title. It took me a while to pick one, and the only way I managed was by promising myself I'd post the alternatives I considered, so here goes:

An Italian restaurant with German Beers?
An Italian Beer House?
An German-Italian Beer House?
An International Beer House?
An Italian restaurant with Larger Selection of Beer?

Anyway, I could go on forever, but I think the point is made: any beer house with a German name that serves "Carpacio Di Beef",  "Spaghetti Pomodoro" and the days Risotto has some serious explaining to do. But first the story of how I got there!

Now I don't have a thing with beer houses. Honestly! I don't know how I've ended up going to another one so soon. Friday was a national holiday and I had picked the short straw in deciding where to go for lunch. Traditionally on this holiday people eat "Bakaliaro Skordalia", basically deep fried battered cod with a garlicky potato and oil purée. That's not what we were going for, but given the brilliantly sunny day, we were thinking along the lines of a fish tavern by the sea. Unfortunately so was everyone else.

We took the car and trekked all the way to the south, out of the city and to an area called 'Agia Marina' only to discover tables packed with people practically going into the sea! We could see the desperation of the customers who gave up trying to get something from the panicked waiter (yes, singular - one waiter) and eventually doing their own waiting! We decided to pass.

So plan B was to go where no one else would have thought of going on this particular day. Where better than a beer house not too far away, in Varkiza, called Bier Haus. I'd done my research earlier and it wasn't too hard to find, situated not on the shore line but hidden away in the residential area above the main sea side road.

On entering Bier Haus, my first thought was "Wow, this is an amazing place to come in the summer after a swim in the sea to enjoy an ice cold beer"! It had a three levelled terrace with seating that was perfect for letting the summer sea breeze in. My second though was "Why are these people eating pasta?".

We sat down and started going through the menu which you can check out for yourself online, and please leave me a comment, let me know that I'm not crazy in saying that about ten percent of it featured remotely German food. I mean I'm reading 'Carpacio', 'Prosciutto', 'Balsamic Vinaigrette', 'Roasted Vegetables with Haloumi', 'Rocket Salad', 'Spagetti Pomodoro', 'Risotto', and the list goes on. Their site does give a little hint though in their description of the place: "German cuisine, adjusted to Mediterranean-Greek demand". Note so self: open a restaurant with "Chinese cuisine, adjusted to Mediterranean-Greek demand". It'll serve duck gyros with ginger tzatziki.

OK, mocking aside, the food we ordered was decent for what is was, the waiter was very pleasant and I did take photos this time (though my photography skills have yet to catch up with my cooking skills), so I am going to put in the effort to tell you about it.We ordered a salad with, among other things, strawberries (better to be in fashion than in season?), roasted vegetables with grilled Haloumi, a mushroom pie, a mixed grill and a roasted pork shank.

The Salad was different. I think the strawberry didn't really belong and the dressing was too sweet for my liking (maybe some acid would have done it justice).

The mushroom pie was tasty, but I would have described it as a cheesy mushroom quiche. 

The gilled vegetables were nicely cooked and had a pleasant crunch to them. However, any possible char grilled taste was covered with the otherwise bland and neutral sauce they were served in. Am I the only one who has never before been served grilled vegetables in a sauce before (which by the way may have well been the same sauce that the shank was covered with).

Now this was, as far a mixed grills goes, a good mixed grill. The chicken was wonderfully tender and juicy, the veal was perfectly cooked medium (that was very nice surprise), the pancetta grilled just right to melt the fat without drying the meat, and everything had that grilled smokiness one expects from a mixed grill. The sausage... eh... I could have done without. And the chips, oh the chips! I admit, I have a soft spot for fries, but these were really really good fries. Fresh, thin, crispy to the ear on the outside and moist and soft inside!

Finally the centrepiece, the roast shank.On the one had it was pointlessly served covered in a sauce of unknown origin and chopped pieces of tomato, on the other hand, the inside was so so meltingly tender and it was served with those amazing fries. I would have liked the skin to be more crispy - but not if that would have meant loosing that juicy interior.

Bottom line, I would go again; in the summer, after a swim. To enjoy a cold beer (though what I didn't mention was that the beer selection wasn't really as large as you'd expect from a beer house) and definitely some food to share, but it's not really somewhere I'd go out of my way to visit.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

COLIBRI: Round two

Last time I visited Colibri, it was under the pretence of it having the best burger in Athens. Under that context I was disappointed, but the pizza did impress me.

This time round was different - in a positive way of course (otherwise why write about it?). I had assembled with the guys for a trip to a little Mexican place called Rincon Mexicano which we had discovered from the same source that led us to Colibri: Athens Daily Secret.

To make a long story short, we ordered about half the menu, were still starving by the end of it and didn't really care much about trying either another round of the same or the other half of the menu. I am open to the possibility that we may have been victims of our own expectations, so I urge you to try the place and form your own opinion - it wasn't particularly expensive (unless, I guess, if your intent is to relieve thy hunger).

So as we left, with an empty space where our food should have been, one comment led to another and off we were to Colibri. This time round the only expectations were to eat good and satisfying food. This time round our expectations were surpassed!

I contemplated ordering a pizza for myself since I remembered my last visit, but since everyone else was getting a burger and a pizza to share I decided to follow them. We each got chilli burger and shared a large pizza topped with rocket and parmesan shavings.

The pizza was as amazing as I remembered it! Thin based with a proper crust, not too much cheese, fresh tomato sauce and then mounds of fresh and vibrant rocket topped with wafer thin delicate and fully flavoursome parmesan shaving. Wow did that go down well (and that was after having already eaten at the Mexican place)!

And then, the burger arrived. And like I'm sure I said last time, this isn't your coarse ground, fat and hearty American style burger, but damn it, it sure as well did the job! Sauces dripping everywhere on every bite... so juicy and soft and filling. And to finish it off, a hefty swig of Weiss beer - ecstasy in the making!


And best of all, the owner(s) of Colibri have opened a second shop in Pagrati - so now there's no excuse!

View Colibri 1 & 2 in a larger map

p.s. a few related links

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Ritterburg: Thumbs Up

Last weekend I had a dream. To spend a sunny day vegetating in the beer garden of a country pub I had read and been told many good things about. My understanding was that this place was practically picked out of the British country side and placed into the Greek one.

The weather on Sunday was perfect. The sun was out and the temperature was one click cooler than a warm spring day: perfect for a motorbike ride into the country. I had assembled up the gang and we were ready to hit the road when it occurred to someone to phone up - just in case. Turns out, what I hadn't been informed was that it was closed on Sundays and Mondays, and only open after 7pm on other days of the week. Seriously now, no British country pub would be caught dead closed on a sunny day, even more so if that day was Sunday? FAIL!

So instead we turned our attention to a German Beer House with a beer Garden called Ritterburg - and how glad am I that things turn out this way, because if they hadn't I would't have discovered a contender for the heavy weight title of best German food in Athens.

Staring from the outside and working our way inside one can tell that effort has been put into creating a rustic warm environment using wood and stone to create a welcoming feeling. The result is different than I have seen in other beer houses and gives more of a cozy family feel. I liked this, but I can understand that someone with their mind set on the novelty of drinking 5 litres of bear out of a tall plastic tube with a tap attached to it may not - but honestly they're tourists and I'm a foodie. Either way really, the ambience of the place was just a side bonus to me compared to the main course which was the food.

On the down side the bear garden (actually it was more of a patio- not a bad thing, just as a matter of fact), wasn't set up. However I can't really blame them: the good weather was just a freak day after a week or so of bad weather that included snow!

We ordered our beer (out of a very good selection) to start with while we looked through the food menu. Everything looked amazing so it was to our good fortune that the service of the place was also up to scratch! Our waiter was very useful in helping us decide what to get! We concluded on fried breaded mushrooms, a selection of sausages and a pork schnitzel with mushroom sauce to start with and then we all had a veal schnitzel for a main (I know - we should have had more mains and shared in order to try different things - but no one was willing to give up THEIR schnitzel).

And then, the food arrived, and to be honest it wasn't what I had hoped for - it was a whole lot more! I mean I have tried allot of German sausages and I like them all - so much so that never have I stopped after a bite to say 'mmmm that sausage was special'. That happened with the cheese filled bacon wrapped fried sausage: it was seriously good. And the fried breaded mushrooms: they were so crunch on the outside and so juicy on the inside! They made me think that it's not a recipe I'm missing out on, but that there exists a whole cooking technique that I'm clueless about! The pork schnitzel was slightly on the thin side in relation to the breadcrumbs that covered it, but just as delicious - especially once it had been given time to absorb the sauce! And these positive delicious vibes I was getting weren't even because I was hungry, because I wasn't! Not counting the Brazilian Churrascaria I had been to the night before, I'd already scuffed down two delicious warm bread rolls with whipped butter spread all over their delicate interiors.

And then the veal schnitzels arrived. You think your taste buds are on the verge of a orgasmic extravaganza when something comes along and sends them into a rampant frenzy! I'm not talking gourmet nonsense. None of that sauces made from stocks and 50 different ingredients reduced for two days with fifteen kilos of bones going into one serving the size of a ping pong ball. I'm talking real, fresh, authentic hearty food. There's no other way to describe it - except of that the schnitzel was about the size of a baby cow (just an added bonus!).

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Saturday, 5 March 2011

Dadas: Good on Paper.

Yesterday I visited a bar/ restaurant in New Penteli: Dadas. They don't seem to have a website, but here are some related links:

It was cold night and I arrived late at New Penteli Square. Not knowing that I was late I waited outside Dadas for my company to arrive. Luckily they called me before it occurred to me to call them because they were already inside!

As I entered Dadas, the first thing that hit me was the warmth of the place. I'm not just talking temperature (though we were sat next to a wonderful, lit fireplace), but something about the lighting, the hum of people talking or the correctly volumed music called "sit down, get comfy and relax" to me. Apparently, (because we were sat in the first half), the space is split into the bar-y half and the restaurant-y half. One with louder music and more people standing up and the other with more tables and lower music.

Since the others had been already waiting for a while, I got immediately handed the menu. Two pages long, modern food items with very appetising descriptions! I eventually went for the Carbonara, which was more or less described as "Casarecci carobonara with pancetta, freerange eggs, pepper and pecorino". I thought to myself, these people has the description spot on. Emphasis on the egg, Pecorino instead of Parmesan which is often incorrectly used, pancetta instead not bacon and ground pepper. We also order an arugula salad, home made crisps and some sort of soufflé to share (I should know, but I was to busy thinking about my pasta).

The salad was very nice (and I always say you can judge a place by its salads). Makes me wish I has paid more attention to what was in it! The crisps were also great (not to say much can go wrong in thin slicing and deep frying potatoes). The soufflé was ok: a baked cheesy floury mixture. And now the pasta... (deep sigh...).

The pasta was Linguine instead of Casarecci. Nothing remotely eggy, peppery or cheesy about the pasta. The pancetta I can't complain about. I could see loads of it and there was a thick layer of fat from it on the bottom of the place and all over the pasta (and that's the best case scenario. The worst case would be that it was butter from buttered pasta!). Unfortunately I couldn't taste that either (although it did remind me a bit of the bacon in bacon cheese sauce they put on chips in TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesdays and the lot) - I do wish they'd put in the effort of browning it first.

I'm not saying I wouldn't go there again (though its nothing to go out of ones way for): the other dishes looked good, and I heard no complaints (though the portions did seem on the lower end or 'large enough'). If they are good (which is what I'll be going to find) that would put the price to quality ration of the place in marginally acceptable territory.

What I am just saying is: change the menu or change the recipe!

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