Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Gluttunous Disposition

I have a growing and rather disturbing obsession with pork shanks. Succulent, slow-roasted pig legs lightly rubbed with dried herbs, salt and pepper. Scrape off the slushy fat that separates its golden crunchy skin from the tender meat and get to work like a gentile. Pick the meat with your fingers. Dip a slab of skin in hot mustard and bite into it as if it were the perfect cracker. Lick the bone clean and burp. There is no need for potatoes or salad or any other unexciting foods that would detract from your devouring of Miss Piggy's chunky inner thigh. All you need is a chilled beer and a gluttonous disposition.

Souxou Mouxou Mantalakia is a smallish Greek tavern nestled off of Ledra Street in old Nicosia. Many Cypriots had told me they were disappointed with the food so one weekend not too long ago I decided to see for myself with The Wife, Ph.D., Cousin #1 and Cousin #4 in tow. The place itself is quite casual with light wooden furniture, some sparse decorations and artwork on its white walls and an intricate tiled floor that reminded me of a stone path. The menu is limited but includes several interesting choices such as kontosouvli (marinated chunks of grilled pork), a breaded chicken breast stuffed with spinach, cheese and red pepper, an artichoke dip and the obvious object of my affection. We ordered these items along with a Greek salad and some spinach pies, and a bottle of retsina (a terrible white wine that tastes like the Original Pine-Sol cleaning product) to wash it (no pun intended) all down. I guess the choice of retsina was the unfortunate byproduct of a poor wine list dominated by uninteresting Greek wines.

Of all the pork shanks I have had, this one was pretty darn good. It was perfectly cooked; the meat was juicy and the rinds crispy and a touch of dried herbs added a zest to the dish. I can confidently say that along with Beer Academy (the pork shank must be the only thing keeping that sad establishment in business), Souxou Mouxou Mantalakia makes the best kotsi I have had on The Rock. Come to think of it, I am now depressed for having missed out on Shank Night during last October's trip to Munich; I passed out at five p.m. courtesy of a sleepless Lufthansa flight followed by four liters of heavy beer and half a chicken (Best. Bird. Ever.) for breakfast/lunch at the Braurosl tent.

Besides the shank, the kontosouvli and stuffed chicken breasts were flavorful, lean yet tender and accompanied by potatoes cooked in different ways. This is a good time to divulge the fact that I do not eat potatoes and that I will refrain from reviewing them. I understand that on The Rock ignoring the spuds is the equivalent of kicking a Cypriot moufflon in the nuts or casually mentioning that Turkey makes better gyros. However, I do not enjoy them so please forgive me if I do not shower them with attention. The artichoke dip was a bit bland and overloaded with garlic, while the spinach pies could have used a few more minutes in the oven or pan to crisp up. Overall, though, the meats shone as is expected of any restaurant on this carnivorous island of ours. Shank God.

Whine On The Rocks Rating: 4 out of 5 Sparkling Spatulas

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