Monday, March 28, 2016

A Funky Comeback

Orange Explosion
Imagine you're really into porn. Food porn to be more exact. A vereatable pornucopia of food.

You're in Athens one random spring night and your friend tells you there's this playful joint in Keramikos, a rundown yet up-and-coming neighbourhood just a short drive away from the Parthenon, that gets kinky with Greek ingredients and molecular gastronomy. Despite the hefty price tag, it's not tough to convince you to suck it up and dig into the depths of your daughter's waning college fund. In any case, you believe education is best served out on the streets.

Piggy, Duck & Beef
You walk up a tight winding staircase in an old corner two story house and enter a chic and minimalist space devoid of anything that would dare draw attention away from the inventive cuisine and impeccable service. The famous Greek model sitting at a nearby table and the cute brunette waitress that glides past youher arms crossed behind her back, her eyes warm, her smile courteousdistract you for a second until you're seated and the menus land. In black and white, the header reads Funky Gourmet. Nowhere does it say the lauded joint has two Michelin stars.

You select the second tasting menu (120 Euros per person) and a bottle of the 2007 1879 Boutari Legacy, a single vineyard Xinomavro from Naoussa that's decanted and then strips off notes upon notes of red berries, dried fruit, spice, savoury tomatoes, black olives, leather and smoke. You let out your first satisfied hmmmm of the night.

The first of fifteen dishes makes it to your side. Called "Salsify in the Soil," it's a creamy taramas with a few strips of a crispy fried root to use as utensils. It's superior taramas: rich and salty with a perfect hint of fishiness. Shit's about to hit the stratosphere, you think.

Cod & Dill Avgolemono
Then it's a  tartlet topped with Greek bottarga dressed with plenty of lemon zest and herbs and a thin sliver of white chocolate that acts as a sort of cheese; incredibly enough, once it hits your tongue, the ingredients turn into a glorious and balanced mix of sweet and savoury with the chocolate cutting through the fish roe's tangy traits. It makes little sense but somehow it works just like peanut butter and jelly.

A couple of Thessaloniki koulouria are placed before you alongside some Cretan buttermilk. They are the best you've ever had: soft, warm and salty like your lover's sunburnt skin after a mid-afternoon summer swim in the east Mediterranean.

Snails are then served over a grain (you're lost, you're dreaming, details no longer concern you) cooked with fresh herbs and topped with plenty of shaved black truffle. You dig in because you're eating earth at its apogee, a threesome with umami pulling the strings, calling the shots, taking command.

Bacon, Chocolate, Caramel
Cod fricassee with a creamy dill avgolemono hits your table. "This is just wrong, so wrong," you tell your friend. The hearty and buttery fish falls apart and goes for a dip in an unctuous broth of dill and lemon.  In your world, this level of refinement and subtle blending of flavours and textures is as elusive as a bottle of Domaine de la RomanĂ©e-Conti. This is fish soup taken to a whole other level.

Then the house specialty, a Greek salad sorbet. Impossible to have a bowlit hits you like a mixed feelingbut as a palate cleanser it works wonders. You taste the cucumbers, the feta, the tomatoes, the onions, the olives as if they stood whole and slowly slivered down your throat in a single file.

The piggy, duck and beef is a seared piece of filet with foie gras, pancetta jam and bacon broth. It's less inventive yet hearty and comforting, and you wish you could bottle up the chunky pancetta jam, take it home and eat it with toast on a rainy day.

As cheese course, you are handed Roquefort coated in chocolate in the shape of a hazelnut served with a vanilla brioche bun and hazelnut dust. You carefully assemble the sandwich, take a bite and wish you had the largest mic ever known to man to drop and then walk out the door. You tell your friend the chefs—Georgianna Hiliadaki and Nick Roussos—should just close shop and open a simple bakery to sell brioches and koulouria to carb fiends like yourself. 

The Pomegranate
The dessert courses follow a similar pattern. The "Pomegranate of Abundance and Prosperity" is served in an emptied pomegranate and consists of caramelised ginger with cereal topped with a custard and bright red spheres made to resemble the fruit's seeds. You wouldn't mind this for breakfast on a weekend. Then as straight-forward a course as you'll get: a morsel of crispy bacon topped with milk chocolate beads, crunchy caramel and gold foil, once again a satisfying interplay between sweet and savoury. To wrap things up, an explosion: orange juice concealed in a round and golden chocolate shell and dramatically presented over foliage and dry ice to look like wild miniature oranges surrounded by mist. Once the dessert hits your tongue, it bursts open and releases the cleanest citrus liquid the Mediterranean could ever conjure. Call it a minty and fresh finish to what has undoubtedly been one of the greatest meals you've ever had.

You know your words and pictures don't do Funky Gourmet any justice but they spill out of you anyway; you're like a teenage boy who's just shared his first kiss with the curvy girl he'll one day meet at the altar.

Whine On The Rocks' Rating: A Lifetime Supply of Sparkling Spatulas.