Story & photography by Manos Angelakis
Roof Garden Restaurant
Electra Palace Hotel
18-20 N. Nicodimou Str.
Table booking reservation
Located in the Plaka district of Athens, a few minutes walk from Syntagma Sq., and near the city’s commercial and cultural center, the Roof Garden Restaurant of the Electra Palace Hotel is open only for dinner. The spectacular night view of the Acropolis and Anafiotika, the oldest Athenian neighborhood that is now a culinary, cultural and entertainment center for the Athenians, could be one reason to visit this restaurant. But, if you like great food, there is certainly another very good reason: Executive Chef Petros Kalevrosoglou has taken traditional Greek recipes and farm-fresh, local ingredients, and with a modernist twist crafted a menu second to none. The kitchen is ready and able to provide a meal paired with brilliant Greek wines that would make many Michelin-starred chefs sit-up and pay attention.
The Assistant Hotel Manager Dimitris Athanasiou has helped develop the wine list and his palate is knowledgeable and refined. Actually, exceptional Greek wines from all over the country form the backbone of the restaurant’s cellar. Malagouzia from Florina in NorthWestern Greece, Chardonney from Corinth in NorthEast Peloponnesus, Moschofilero from Central Peloponnesus’ Arcadia highlands, Assyrtiko from Santorini and Muscat from Samos, two Aegean islands that are renowned for their dazzling wines; these are some of the wines that were paired with my tasting menu.
Please note that when I do restaurant tastings by myself, I now ask for half- or quarter- portions – my girth needs to be controlled. So if the portions in the pictures seem not to be ample, it is by design.
I opened my tasting with a cauliflower soup with vanilla and orange juice paired with the Malagouzia from Alpha Domain. Cauliflower is a much maligned vegetable that, treated properly, can provide tasty and satisfying dishes. The soup was creamy, and the vanilla and orange-juice aromas made it very different from similar soups I have experienced in other restaurants.
The second course was a de-constructed Greek salad, which I would like to call an “Athenian Garden”. It was a play on the “Edible Dirt” concept. In this case, smallish-sized skinless tomatoes dusted with dry spices – oregano, thyme and mint – were lined on a black-slate flat, on a bed of dakos crumbs (dakos is a Cretan barley rusk used, soaked in olive-oil and water, by Cretan shepherds for breakfast and as a base in traditional Cretan appetizers) garnished with raw onion rings, cured olive rounds, shavings of cucumber, squares of green pepper (capsicum), Santorini cured caper buds and three pools of sauces that included a feta-emulsion, a tomato-emulsion and a saffron-emulsion. Paired with the Papaioannou Domain 2012 Chardonnay from Corinth, fermented in stainless steel, the “salad” was as beautiful to look as it was satisfying.
The third course was home-made Country Pasta. Penne-shaped pasta in a tomato-and-herb sauce sprinkled with fresh oregano and garlic foam, topped with shrimp. The penne were properly al dente, and the fresh shrimp gave a taste-of-the-sea to what would be considered a “primo piatto” in an Italian restaurant. The wine paired with it, was a Tselepos Domain Moschofilero, from the Arcadian highlands. The slightly acidic with a hint of saltiness long ending of the wine paired very well with the sea-concept of the dish.
Another sea-based dish was the Grouper (Sfyrida) fillet on a bed of seasonal vegetables. Broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, carrot-cubes and onion-squares were the bed upon which a thick, lovely piece of grouper fillet rested, with garlic mayonnaise and dakos crumbs, and a swash of parsley sauce. All designed on a black plate. A visually spectacular composition, paired with one of the best Assyrtiko wines of the volcanic vineyards of Santorini from the Hatzidakis winery.
Dessert was the final offering; a phyllo-pastry cylinder filled with pumpkin mousse, over chocolate cookie crumbs and yoghurt ice cream, paired with a glass of Muscat of Samos from Anthemis vineyard. The sweet taste of the confectioner’s sugar sprinkled over the crunchy phyllo was a counterpoint to the ripe pumpkin mousse. The aromatic, sweet Moscato added a highlight of flavor to the entire dessert that was punctuated by the sweet/sour taste of the yoghurt ice cream.
It was indeed an exceptional meal.
In addition to the tasting menu, I also noticed a number of items in the regular menu that seemed very interesting. First, the three course fish menu: soup of the day, wild greens, grilled salmon on a bed of vegetables, lemon sorbet and a glass of wine from Domain Efharis. At € 32 per person, it is quite a good deal for a top rated restaurant. Another interesting item was the grilled vegetables with Chios Mastelo cheese and mint, a traditional vegetarian dish from Chios Island - the cow milk Mastelo cheese is a tangy, very flavorful semisoft cheese that is very good either fresh or grilled. The word mastelo literally means the wooden bucket used for milk collection, and it is of Venetian origin. Lobster in orzo with Kozani crocus (saffron) is a tasty twist on a traditional island fisherman’s specialty. And, if you like Italian pappardelle, you will also love the “chilopites” - a country pasta, traditional in Northern Greece - with thin slices of veal fillet. Finally, the mousakas in a clay pot, is a classic Athenian specialty of eggplant slices with spiced minced beef or lamb - cooked in a tomato-based sauce - topped by a creamy Bechamel, baked until the top browns. The eggplant version is the traditional rendition, however you can also layer in the pot fried potatoes or sautéed zucchini or both.
Thank you Chef Kalevrosoglou and Mr. Athanasiou for proving to me that Greek gastronomy has progressed through the years and now can rival many of the dishes touted by gastronomes and chefs of other European countries as definitive great cooking.
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