Sunday, July 06, 2008

Adventures in Athens

After a 3.5 hours flight, we arrived fresh faced and eager to explore the city of Athens for the first day of our Greek adventure. For me, it's the first time venturing further out in Europe and going for a Mediterranean twist in search for a different sort of holiday. And the best bit (probably stressful/frustrating for some) is I decided to do book this holiday in my usual rashed/irrational style with not much planning, never had time to research more of the cultural history and must-see sights given that I was busy working most of the time. Literally just booked the connecting flights and hotels and just headed off! In a strange sort of way it did pay off and I loved every bit of randomness of this Greek holiday ...

Athens feels like a small town living in history, not your typical glamorous and trendy European cities (e.g. Paris, Milan, Barcelona). Buildings are older and less polished, roads are narrow, Greek words and graffiti everywhere (not very English friendly), lots of nuts and olives, and of course, random shops like this ...

Colorful bottles of local liquor called Ouzo (which tastes like mouthwash or some toothpaste actually) ...

And then I saw something totally inappropriate which I thought you all would be interested ... -_-||

But anyways, we headed straight for a famous taverna for seafood called Tou Psara for dinner, which is near the Plaka, but pretty hard to find I must say. Well worth the hunt as you can just ask some locals like we did which will point you to the direction once you're nearby.

There are tables indoors as well as outdoors. You get a pretty decent view of the city like below

Here's a snapshot of the menu, on the starters page. I decided to go for the famous Greek salad for starters, after hearing so much about how its different locally.

And boy were they SO right! The Greek salad I've had all along outside of Greece was a poor attempt to replicate what is originally a refreshing, crisp and fresh salad. The key ingredients that made a difference was the local produce: giant red local tomatoes, fresh capers, olives, cucumber, green pepper and onions, dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, topped with a generous chunk of feta cheese... absolutely heavenly! The salad is served chilled and what I found interesting was that the raw onions were sweet and juicy and doesn't give the sharp aftertaste which many find unappetising. Now we know the ones available in the UK is not doing this amazing salad justice at all ...

P had the Grilled Kalamari Stuffed with Feta and Red Pepper, served with a mini tomato salad on the side. And that's what I meant by the giant local tomatoes if you look at the size of it :) He thoroughly enjoyed the dish being a big seafood and cheese fan, and I took quite a liking to it as well especially the crispy tentacles bit ...

On the other hand, I ordered Lamb Souvlaki with Spinach Pie and Rice. Souvlaki is probably what we normally call kebabs, basically pieces of meat grilled on skewers. The big chunky meat was succulent, grilled pink and perfect, with little charred bits on the green pepper which was nice (but cancer causing unfortunately) ;P The spinach pie was something new I've not tried before, but basically spinach cooked with a melted cheese topping, which is unsurprisingly feta I suspect. Pretty balance dish with a bit of meat, vegetables and carbo.
And there was something red, big and local that I would have missed out if it wasn't for the kind host who gave out fruits on the house. The chilled watermelon was great on a warm sunny day, oozing with natural sweetness and juiciness. All in all a great start to the discovery of Greek cuisine!

By the time we paid our bill, it's starting to get dark and even in Athens, the sunset is so beautiful and an event that you actually have to stop doing what you're doing and just standstill for 5-10 minutes to appreciate this natural beauty that is so often taken for granted ... More on this when we're off to Santorini island next!

Tou Psara (Fish Taverna)
Eretheos, 16. Plaka
Athens, Greece

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