Share You know you are a connoisseur of Middle-Eastern cuisine when you can taste and differentiate between Souvlaki, Gyro, Doner Kebap, Kafta Kebab, Shish Tawook and Shawarma, and trace these to the lands they originate from. As well, you need to be ...

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"Andy The Foodie's Paradise" - 5 new articles

  1. The Jerusalem in Toronto, Canada – Middle-Eastern Expedition Extraordinaire!
  2. Isshin in Irving, Texas - "Sushi Smorgasbord"!
  3. Marrakesh Café in Dallas, Texas – Authentic Moroccan Adventure!
  4. Bombay Sizzlers Pub & Grill in Dallas, TX – Mumbai Unplugged!
  5. El Greco Taverna in Santorini, Greece: An exotic culinary Greek Odyssey!
  6. More Recent Articles

The Jerusalem in Toronto, Canada – Middle-Eastern Expedition Extraordinaire!

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VerandaShawarma

You know you are a connoisseur of Middle-Eastern cuisine when you can taste and differentiate between Souvlaki, Gyro, Doner Kebap, Kafta Kebab, Shish Tawook and Shawarma, and trace these to the lands they originate from. As well, you need to be able to clearly discern between Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Tahina and Tzatziki, as well as their places of origin. Here is a ready primer that you may potentially find useful:



  • Souvlaki and Shish Tawook are in essence, flame grilled Chicken kebabs with their origins in Greece and Lebanon/Syria respectively.
  • Gyro, Shawarma, Kafta and Doner Kebap is pork (Gyro) or ground beef and lamb or chicken (Shawarma, Kafta and Doner Kebap), grilled on a vertical rotisserie and served fresh off the grill, usually accompanied by pita or lafa bread and a combo of hummus, tahini and baba ghanoush or tzatziki sauces. Gyro derives its origins in Greece, Shawarma in Lebanon/Egypt/Israel while the Doner Kebap comes from Turkey. Incidentally, these are also usually served in fast food restaurants as an eponymous sandwich within a pita pocket garnished with herbs, spices and sauces, for a light meal.
  • Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Tahina and Tzaziki are sauces/sides used for the meats and sandwiches listed above. Hummus comprises ground garbanzo beans in olive oil with Middle-Eastern spices while Tahina (or Tahini)is ground sesame seed in olive oil with spices added for flavor, with their origins in the Middle-East. Baba Ghanoush comprises baked or broiled eggplant mashed and mixed with assorted seasonings, again with origins in the Middle-East.Tzatziki, tzadziki, or tsatsiki is a Greek meze or appetizer, also used as a sauce for souvlaki and gyros. Tzatziki is made of strained yoghurt — in Greece and Turkey usually sheep's-milk or goat's-milk yoghurt — to which are added cucumbers (either pureed and strained or seeded and finely diced), garlic, salt, cracked black pepper and usually olive oil, dill, sometimes lime juice and parsley, or mint.
Having lived in the heartland of the Middle East in Israel - the source of two the three great monotheistic religions (Judaism and Christianity) I can say I really know my Middle Eastern/ Mediterranenan cuisine well. I can taste meat off a rotisserie (Gyro, Doner, Kafta or Shawarma) and tell whether the recipe/preparation is sourced in Lebanon, Greece, Egypt, Israel or Turkey. I can take a bite of a falafel and usually tell whether it is sourced from Egyptian or Lebanese beans.

So I am understandably fastidious re: the quality of the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern adventures I embark on, and often surprise the owners of these establishments with my demands for the perfectly rendered and extravagantly embellished Shawarma or the most tantalizing Mazaa platter that they did not often design into their menus!:-)

I love to seek and try out new Mediterranean/Middle Eastern establishments across North America, but will candidly admit that I have yet to sample a culinary adventure that excels the one offered by the Jerusalem in Toronto.

What brings me back for more:

The Jerusalem in Toronto is one of the finest establishments I have sampled in Toronto in the two years I have lived there. The establishment with two branches, was founded many years ago by a Druze (a secret/mystical religious sect with origins in the erstwhile Palestine that is an offshoot of Islam who bear allegiance to Israel) family from Israel.

The ambiance is reminiscent of the Negev desert of Israel (where I have had the privilege of camping out like a Bedouin), is frequented largely by the discerning Jewish population of Toronto as well as folks that seek an authentic taste of home cooked Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine.

The menu that offers a la carte lunch specials and a la carte dinner (including packages for families of two or four), is an epicure’s delight and offers authentic Mediterranean/Middle Eastern flavors, spices and condiments as well as some innovative items that are reminiscent of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beirut and Cairo.



My Favorites:Hors d’oeuvres:
  • Lentil soup: their signature soup (see photo below) prepared daily from selected red lentils and fresh ingredients is the right choice to embark upon this sensual adventure!
Jerusalem_Lentil Soup
  • Mazaa Platter: offers a mouth watering combo of hummos, baba ghanoush, falafel, tahina, Middle Eastern salad and mixed pickles (see photo below) and is best enjoyed with their house pita served piping hot off the oven.
Jerusalem Mazaa Platter
  • Tabouleh Salad: a favorite of mine, comprising finely chopped parsley, tomato and onion, mixed with cracked, bulgar wheat and served with fresh mint, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil (see photo below).
Jerusalem_Taboleh Salad
Entrees:
  • Shish Kabab (Beef or Lamb): choice cuts of fresh Ontario lamb or tender pieces of filet mignon, lightly seasoned with their home recipes and grilled to your choice.
  • Shish Tawook: succulent pieces of chicken breast marinated in a specially prepared secret sauce that will indulge your taste buds for sure!
  • Kafta Kebab: juicy blend of minced Ontario lamb and lean beef mixed with onions, parsley, garlic and select spices and grilled to sublime perfection, on their rotisserie.
  • Lamb Chops: rich, charbroiled Ontario lamb chops, lightly seasoned and extremely tender, and highly recommended.
Jerusalem Kebab Platter
For a first visit to the Jerusalem, I would highly recommend their combination dinner (for two or four) which offers an excellent package deal (and value for your buck - see the photo above) comprising any 4 skewers of your choice and served with hummos, baba ghanoush, falafel, tabouleh salad, fried tomatoes or fried eggplant (see photo below), mixed pickles, rice, salad and pita bread.
Jerusalem_Fried Eggplant
Desserts:
  • Middle-Eastern Dessert Platter: delivering a tempting assortment of middle-eastern delicacies, including many kinds of baklava and pastries filled with nuts and topped with honey syrup, that will serve to consummate your memorable Middle-Eastern adventure at this incredible establishment.
  • Rice Pudding: an absolutely delightful creamy pudding mixed with raisings topped with nuts and cinnamon to melt in your mouth and warm the cockles of your heart!
Being the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern “gastronome” that I am, I am hard pressed to discover an establishment that offers authentic cuisine in a warm, friendly ambiance at an affordable price as good as the Jerusalem in Toronto. I strongly suggest that you include the Jerusalem on your itinerary the next time you happen to be in the “most diverse city on the face of the earth” (there are officially 114 languages spoken in Toronto) to accentuate and embellish your Middle-Eastern expedition in this beautiful city - you will thank me for it!:-)
This adventure in Toronto, Canada begins at: Jerusalem Restaurant - two locations in Toronto as below:4777 Leslie Street, North York, ON M2J 2K8. Tel # (416) 490-7888. Click here for the Google Map and Directions.955 Eglinton Avenue West, York, ON M6C 2C4. Tel # (416) 783-6494. Click here for the Google Map and Directions.
    

Isshin in Irving, Texas - "Sushi Smorgasbord"!

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IsshinSushi2

For someone born in the fish eating capital of India (Kolkata) and raised in an archetypical Bengali (East-Indian) family for whom, (well-cooked) fish and rice is a staple and matter of culinary pride (Bengalis truly believe and justifiably so that they conjure the finest fish curries in South Asia, second to none!), the notion of eating raw or relatively uncooked fish was utter sacrilege and well outside the realms of rational possibility.



So it was with immense trepidation that I was actually persuaded by close friends to check out sushi and sashimi at what they said was probably the safest place to embark on what candidly appeared to be a precarious undertaking. Imagine my surprise when I actually liked and savored the fine taste of well made sushi and sashimi with their flavors appropriately embellished with wasabi and ginger in soya sauce....a whole new world of fine flavors opened itself up for me!:-)

I could not help but compare and contrast the well-cooked and spiced fish curries from Eastern India that my palate was so conditioned to appreciate, with the minimalist and otherwise similar preparation imparted to the sushi and sashimi from Japan. I cannot but help attribute this stark difference in the preparation and consumption of fish to the cultural and religious differences that were perhaps prevalent in India and Japan. Hindu India, pre-British and Afghan conquest, was the fabled "land of milk and honey" with her legendary bounty of spices (pepper, cardamom, cloves, saffron, fenugreek, asafetida and many more) that the rest of the world had only heard of, that made their way into the extravagant and opulent kitchens and banquet tables of the kings and landowners and was reflected in their gastronomical orgies with utter impunity! In sharp contrast, the far smaller landscape in Buddhist Japan, barely delivered sufficient rice (the staple) and fish needed for consumption in a culture where simplicity, austerity and minimalist sustenance was the norm, reflected in their sushi, sashimi, rice wine and other icons of the Japanese culinary tradition, including the latter day "teppan-yaki" or its American incarnation, the "hibachi", reflected in the offerings of Benihana for instance (check out my previous blogpost on Benihana, if interested).

Having dwelt on the religio-cultural influences on sushi and sashimi, let me take this opportunity to introduce one of my favorite Sushi establishments in Dallas, that offers a sumptuous lunch buffet and a great a la carte dinner menu at a price point that will not break the bank!:-)

What brings me back for more:
The Isshin in Irving, is an elegant, family run establishment established by Hiro Kishida (owner and chef- a native of Sapporo, Japan and his family) who, to this day, can be seen rolling fresh sushi every day. Their lunch spread in my humble opinion, is one of the best offerings in Dallas that offers top quality sushi and an incredible variety at a very competitive price, complemented by excellent service characteristic of the Orient.

The Isshin lunch repertoire that I can never get enough of (see the photo below) comprises these favorites:
  • Unagi – freshwater eel
  • Hamachi – yellow tail
  • Toro – fatty Tuna
  • Kani – snow clam
  • Sake – fresh Salmon
  • Maguro – fatty Tuna
Also included are a sumptuous array of sushi rolls including California, crunchy, dragon, jalapeno, Kathy passion Philadelphia, rainbow, spicy tuna handrolled, that will delight you and bring you back for more.
IsshinSushi2

A challenge is usually getting there before the lunch crowds to secure uninhibited access to the fresh sushi from the bar as soon as it is unleashed for consumption!:-) I must also mention their well appointed Asian style salad bar as well as their offering of steak, grilled or fried chicken, dumplings and spring rolls to complement their sushi and California rolls smorgasbord, guaranteed to tickle the cockles of the epicurean heart of every sushi aficionado!:-) Their miso soups also offer an excellent way to embark on their memorable culinary adventure, that you cannot go wrong with.

Also highly recommended are their a la carte sushi and sashimi served on elegant boats that simply delight the senses and leave you yearning for more!

So the next time you are in Dallas and crave great Sushi for lunch, I would strongly urge you to check out the sushi smorgasbord at the Isshin in Irving, for what I hope, will be a memorable culinary experience that you will want to write home about, and equally importantly, thank me for!:-)

This adventure in Irving, Texas, USA begins at: The Isshin Sushi Bar and Grill, 7600 North Mac Arthur Blvd., Irving, TX 75063. Tel # (972) 506-9906. Click here for the Google Map and Directions.
    

Marrakesh Café in Dallas, Texas – Authentic Moroccan Adventure!

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Milestone: This blogpost has been referenced by the Marrakesh Cafe in Dallas, on its landing web page.

Marakkesh_Couscous2

My first exposure to the delectable cuisines of North-Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) happened in Israel while doing my International MBA with fellow students from 16 countries around the world. My class fellows included three individuals from Morocco, getting to know whom not only served to bolster my French (French and Arabic are both spoken in the former French colonies in North Africa), but also acquaint me with the inimitable cuisines from this region.

A bit of relevant history re: Morocco, that was ruled by the Berber dynasties (60-70% of today's Moroccans are of Berber ancestry) who at their pinnacle of power, held sway not only over North-Africa, but also significant parts of Europe including Spain and Portugal. I saw clear evidence of this on my recent trip to Portugal which still to this day, has palaces, castles and mosques representing the Moorish architecture reminiscent of Morocco, that exist in harmony with the Gothic, Greco-Roman and Portugal’s unique neo-Gothic Manueline architecture that are timeless icons of this magnificent country’s checkered past and grandeur.

The eclectic influences that the Berbers of Morocco were exposed to (Arab, Moorish, Iberian, Middle-Eastern, Mediterranean), culminating from their history of invasion and conquest, manifests itself distinctly in the colors, spices, condiments that render Moroccan cuisine unique and delectable, and oh, so different from the Middle-Eastern cuisines (with their origins in Egypt, Lebanon, Greece and Turkey), that the cognoscenti can truly appreciate.

Having has the privilege of experiencing fine cuisine from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in France, Israel and Portugal, I longed for an establishment that would present me with an authentic North-African culinary experience without having to embark on a Trans-Atlantic expedition. My intrepid quest was recently rewarded with the discovery of two establishments (both family run establishments) in Dallas – the
Marrakkesh Café in Dallas and the Kasbah in Irving.

What brings me back for more:

While I have experienced both establishments (that both serve fairly authentic Moroccan fare) the
Marrakesh Café wins hands down in terms of variety, authenticity, service and ambiance. Founded and run by a native of Marrakesh – Majid Al Mansour, Marakkesh Café offers an ambiance that is elegant, warm and embellished with colors and objets d’art reminiscent of the Morocco, well complemented with an exceptional quality of customer service.

The family takes great pride in their service as well as the authenticity of the cuisine they serve, that keep their customers coming back for more with their family and friends!

My Favorites:

Hors d’oeuvres:


  • Harira soup: thick, peppery and steaming Moroccan lentil soup with Garbanzo beans that helps you really build up an appetite…yummy especially with a dash of lemon.
  • Zaalouk: grilled and mashed eggplant with tomato, cilantro, garlic and Moroccan spices (see photo below), that is a mouth watering delight and is perhaps matched only by the delicacy of the Baingan Bharta from Northern-India. Strongly recommended to get you into "the swing of things"!
Marakkesh_Zaaluk

Entrees:
  • Brochettes “Kebab”: well presented repertoire of delights (you can order any type or a combo of all three) from the grill comprising regular beef, chicken and ground beef (Kafta), marinated with their secret spices, well done and served with saffron rice and salad.
  • Chicken Bastilla: is a semi-sweet seasoned pie with boneless chicken and roasted almonds wrapped in dough, baked and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar – a Moroccan novelty that is actually consumed before dinner, to build up an appetite, believe it or not!
  • Couscous Royal: a staple from Morocco and North-Africa comprising steamed semolina delivered with chicken, lamb and merguez sausage served with mixed vegetables and harissa hot sauce, topped with caramelized onions and raisins (see photo below) – this is truly fit for the aristocracy and highly recommended. You can also order their regular couscous with lamb, beef or chicken.
Marakkesh_Couscous2
  • Lamb and Prunes Tagine: well cooked lamb simmered in a blend of spices with saffron rice, served with prunes, almonds and sesame seeds – this is the quintessence of Moroccan cuisine that you must have, especially on your first encounter.
  • Cornish Hen Tagine and Lemon: a variation of the lamb tagine prepared with tender Cornish game hen and traditional spices, garnished with lemon and green olives (see photo below) for that oh, so inimitable spicy and tangy implosion of flavors that will absolutely indulge your taste buds and bring you back for more. You can also order this with artichokes and peas if you like.
Marakkesh_Tagine
  • Fish Tagine: delivers the sea food incarnation of this Moroccan classic, spiced with Sharmoula sauce and served with saffron rice.
Desserts: offered include chocolate mousse, creme brulee and bread pudding though I really recommend the authentic Morrocan incarnation below :
  • Sliced Oranges: smothered in orange blossom water and kissed with cinnamon and sugar that is the desirable way of consummating this incredible Moroccan culinary experience, in my humble opinion.
Marakkesh_Oranges
If you are new to Moroccan/North-African cuisine, the Marrakesh Café is an excellent destination to commence your exploration of the earthy culinary delights from that region. As well, if you are a veteran of North African cuisines, this establishment presents the authenticity reminiscent of Casablanca, Marrakesh or Rabat right here in Dallas!
Check out the Marrakesh Café and do let me know whether your gastronomical adventure was as memorable as mine!:-)
This adventure in Dallas, Texas begins at: Marrakesh Café, 7989, Beltline Road, Suite 315, Dallas, Texas 75248. Tel # (972) 239-7775 / (972) 239- 7776. Click here for the Google Map and Directions.
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Comments: "Cafe Marrakesh has just started serving Kefta with eggs on the lunch buffet that taste just like my mother -in-law's. I thought you would like to know.
Also, after viewing your picture, I need to have some tagine." :-)
Jill Elmazouni, July 30th, 2008, 2:13 PM
    

Bombay Sizzlers Pub & Grill in Dallas, TX – Mumbai Unplugged!

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Flavors_Chick65

Although a self-annointed “denizen of the world” who is equally at home in Rome, Paris, Athens, Lisbon, New York or Vancouver, Bombay (or Mumbai as it is called today), occupies a special place in my heart. I was raised and spent over 20 of my formative years in this “Ville-Magnifique de L’Inde” - India’s quintessential melting pot that is accepting, progressive, happening, and conditions you to appreciate the “beauty in diversity” across India and the World. In Bombay, you shed all other identities based on your state of origin in India (Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu et al) and become first and foremost, a "Bombayite" (or its politically correct analog of today – the “Mumbaikar”) – every other identity, tag or cultural baggage pales into utter oblivion and insignificance!



This intrinsic eclectic milieu of Bombay is also mirrored indelibly in its cuisine. Besides the native Maharashtrian cuisine (Bombay is the capital of the state of Maharashtra, arguably the most progressive and unequivocally, the most prosperous state of India), this metropolis has also evolved its own brand of "Bombay cuisine" that includes the eponymous “Bombay Chaat” (check out my previous blog post on the finest Bombay Chaat establishment in the World, in my humble opinion) and also fairly novel creations like the Vada-Pav, Pav Bhaaji (ubiquitous street foods like the hot dogs in Manhattan, Chicago or Toronto), the Rawa Masala and Mysore Masala Dosa (adapted from Southern India), the Chicken Lollipop and Chicken Manchurian (Bombay style Chinese), Prawns and Pomfret Koliwada (seafood grilled with spices a la Bombay inspired by the Malvani cuisine of coastal Maharashtra), the Tawa Gosht/Tawa Murg and the Murg Tikka (inspired by the Awadhi/Hyderabadi cuisines with a distinct Mughlai influence), the Bombay Fried Rice and the celebrated Bombay Sizzlers (made famous by Yoko’s and Kobe’s Sizzlers in Bombay, frequented by Bollywood film stars and the hoi-polloi alike). These are mouthwatering delights sold by street vendors or unpretentious “hole-in the wall” establishments in this "city that never sleeps”, that epitomize Bombay’s unique gastronomical character that has grown on folks like me, and one that, the city's opulent five star hotels or well-appointed restaurants would be hard pressed to match!

Happily for us in Dallas, the Bombay Sizzlers Pub and Grill in Irving brings these iconic foods of today's Mumbai to life, in a casual setting that is definitely worth checking out with family and friends.

What brings me back for more:

The Bombay Sizzlers Pub and Grill is a casual, unpretentious and very family-friendly establishment embellished with murals of the famous landmarks of Mumbai, and run by Mukesh and Amit (the chef-de-cuisine with significant experience across the world) - both long time inhabitants of Bombay, who have endeavored to deliver the “Bombay culinary experience” within their novel and fairly expansive-yet-inexpensive menu, that delights the palate without breaking the bank!:-)

Friday and Saturday evenings are special since they bring in DJs who play the most happening Bollywood numbers and Bhangra that usually moves you, your family and friends onto the dance floor, given the indulgence and satiation to your taste buds from the culinary delights delivered piping hot off the grill by their friendly, youthful staff who strive to please.


My Favorites:


Hors d’oeuvres:

  • Chicken Lollipop: a “Bombay Chinese” delight that is Mumbai’s answer to the celebrated Buffalo wings, but a bit more zesty n’ spicy – you can’t go wrong with their chicken lollipops.
  • Bombay Sizzler Mix Platter: is served sizzling hot off the grill and delivers a mouth watering combo of chicken, goat meat and fish kebabs with fried onions, mushrooms and bell peppers spiced with garlic, pepper and their secret recipe (see photo below)– something to order on every trip!
Bombay Sizzlers_Chowpatty Platter
  • Tawa Keema Masala: delivers minced chicken grilled with garlic, pepper and other spices from North India and serves 5-6 people. Again highly recommended.
  • Boribunder Kebabs: a sizzling assortment to choose from, including the classic Tandoori Chicken, Seekh Kebab (goat meat), mutton chops, tandoori shrimps and boti kebabs – just what you need to build up the appetite!
  • Grilled Fish Koliwada style: a classic seafood recipe from the streets of Mumbai, offering a choice of pomfret (see photo below), bangda (from the Arabian Sea off the Bombay coast), king fish, tilapia and shrimps marinated and grilled using their potent Koliwada mix, inspired by the Malvani cuisine from the coastal areas of Maharashtra.
Bom Sizz_Fish Koliwada
Entrees:
  • Tawa Gosht or Murg: Chicken or goat meat marinated well in their potent tawa spice concoction and served piping hot (see photo below) – goes well with rice, but I prefer to have this with the garlic naan – don’t leave Bombay Sizzler without trying this!
Bombay Sizzlers_Tawa Gosht
  • Achari Murg or Gosht: Bombay Sizzler’s incarnation of a classic from Hyderabad that serves a spicy chicken or goat meat in a curry flavored with Indian pickles (“achar”) that it derives it’s name from – strongly suggested for people that love spicy meats to go with their flat breads.
  • Chicken 65: originated in Hyderabad in Southern India but has since been adapted and assimilated in Mumbai. This delivers boneless chicken well marinated and grilled in a fiery red sauce, sautéed with onions and curry leaves from Southern India – great compliment to a nice wine or Indian beer.
  • Chicken Manchurian: is again a classic “Bombay style Chinese’ dish with medium spiced flour smeared chicken stir fried with cabbage and onions in soya sauce, that complements Chinese Fried rice extremely well.
  • Garlic Naan: is their house specialty and is served piping hot off the tandoor, laced with butter and garnished with Cilantro (see photo below) – a must have for me on every trip to this establishment.:-)
Bombay Sizzlers_Naan
Desserts: Given the sumptuous dinners I have had at the Bombay Sizzler, I have never had the appetite to order any desserts. But they do offer a choice of the ubiquitous gulab jamun, ras-malai as well as mango and malai pista kulfi, for those inclined to consummate their meals with a potent dose of glucose!:-)

I have merely provided you with a sampling of my personal favorites offered by this casual, fun establishment above - they offer much more (check out their complete menu). Check out Bombay Sizzlers Pub and Grill if you want to sample the unique culinary delights from the streets of Mumbai for the very first time or, if like me, you have experienced these before and want to periodically tantalize your taste buds with the inimitable spices, aroma, colors and condiments from the Indian megapolis that, arguably, is first among equals!

This adventure in Irving, Texas begins at: Bombay Sizzlers Pub and Grill, 2215 North O'Connor Rd, Irving, TX 75062. Tel # (972) 255-5400. Reservations recommended on Friday evenings and weekends.Click here for the Google Map and Directions.
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Comments: (In "Hinglish":-)) Andy, I am seriously impressed by the quality of your writing and your knowledge on foods and cuisines from across the world! Yaar, ekdum Choopa Rustam nikle!:-) You have done Mumbai proud - keep up the good work!:-) Tera Mumbai-ka-Yaar, Johnny Gaddar (Mumbaikar)!:-)
September 12, 2008 5:59 AM
    

El Greco Taverna in Santorini, Greece: An exotic culinary Greek Odyssey!

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Santorini Kabab Platter

Our Greek Odyssey over Christmas in 2007 was one we shall not forget easily. For someone raised on a staple diet of Greek mythology in his childhood such as myself, our trips to Athens, Delphi and Olympia were deeply spiritual experiences that will forever stay with us. After all of the history and the mythology, a voyage to Santorini in the Greek Cyclades was a fitting finale to this awesome adventure.



Breathtaking picturescape of Oia

Santorini, which has literally been sculpted on the slopes of a crater (called “caldera” in Greek), is a magnificent island city endowed with an ethereal beauty that must be experienced for one’s self. Viewing the remains of the volcano submerged within the Aegean Sea early in the morning, would move and evoke romance and introspection in the most hardened of people. Walking leisurely along the caldera (or driving) thru the gorgeous little villages with exotic names like Fira, Imerovigli, Firostephani, Kamari, Pyrgos and Oia serves to rejuvenate your mind, body, spirit and soul and is highly recommended for just about everyone and especially, folks who lead a stressful existence!

Armeni village within Oia

Given all the walking and the vigorous exercise, we felt intense pangs of hunger and the need to satiate it with the authentic, exotic version of the Greek cuisine served locally in Santorini. Since most of the establishments were closed for Christmas, the El Greco Taverna (happily for us), a stone’s throw away from our hotel, was exactly what we needed!

The El Greco Taverna is a modest, almost "hole-in-the wall" family run establishment that is unpretentious, yet endowed with a remarkable view of the Fira landscape and is adorned with some incredible photos of Santorini, shot by local photographers. The very friendly demeanor and service of the young and self-effacing Antonio, the head server, would invariably bring us back to El Greco for practically every meal, save breakfast until our departure on Christmas Day!

El Greco in Fira offering authentic Santorini style cuisine

Besides the ubiquitous and extremely well prepared Souvlaki, Gyro (pork and chicken) and the Moussaka, its seafood (fresh catch delivered every morning) was its pride and our joy!:-) The seafood platter (below) presented a combination of Mahi Mahi, Octopus, Scallops and Prawns, served with large potato wedge fries and Greek pilaf, grilled with their secret concoction of spices and herbs, especially oregano and cooked in extra virgin olive oil extracted from the choicest varieties of olives (like Kalamata and Amfissa) from the mainland of Greece.
Santorini Big Fish

Equally well made were the gyro/souvlaki platters (see below) with pork and chicken souvlaki (kebabs), rice and Greek fries served with their local incarnation of Tzatziki and hot sauce.
Santorini Kabab Platter

Savoring the fresh fish and the meat with their home-made bread spiced with their locally brewed Balsamic Vinegar, as well as the locally made Santo Nectarii White (like a Chardonnay) and Red Wines (close to a Cabernet) was such incredible joy and pleasure.:-)

Noerthern picturescape of Oia

Santorini is a veritable "Mediterranean Shangri-La" that was awe-inspiring and truly touched us with its ethereal beauty – not for nothing has Santorini been called “The Most Beautiful Island Paradise” anywhere in the World!
Savor the sensuality and romance of Santorini for yourself at least once in your lifetime and when you do, we hope you will take the time to relax, undulate and indulge yourself with the culinary delights of the El Greco Taverna in Fira, that hopefully, you will thank us for!:-) Bon Voyage and Efcharisto (Thank you in Greek)!:-)

This adventure in Fira (also called Thira), Santorini, Greece, begins at:
El Greco Taverna, (down the road from the Theoxenia Hotel), Fira Main Street, Santorini, Greece. Tel # 22222. Click here for the Google Map and Directions.
_________________________________________
Comments:
"Hi Andy, This is your long lost pen pal from Greece, Efthymia "Effy" Papakvrillov, now living in Melbourne, Australia. I chanced upon your food blog on the Net, recognized your photo and was delighted to see that you had recently visited my homeland - I had invited you many years ago if you remember. I completely agree that Santorini is the most beautiful island in the World and cannot wait to try out the fish at the El Greco, on my trip to Greece this summer! Efcharisto!:-)
Effy Papakvrillov from Crete, Greece, now living in Melbourne, Australia. March 3, 2008 10:27 AM
    

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