The Greeks have descended upon Delhi bringing with them treats galore. Food, wine, delicious Kalamata olives, it’s the entire Greek Kouzína (the Greek word for kitchen) which has invaded the capital. The warriors at the helm are two young and dynamic chefs from Greece, Chef Paris Kostopoulos, a renowned chef known for bringing innovative ideas to Greek gastronomy, presently the Executive Chef at Langley Resort Buca Beach in Buka Messinia (previously with the 3 Michelin starred El Celler de Can Roca which featured at the top of the World’s 50 best restaurant list in 2013) and Chef Petros Vrionis, both members of Gefsis Team Messinian Gastronomy.
I first got a chance to try out some dishes prepared by them and taste some Greek wine, at a dinner hosted by His Excellency Ioannis Raptakis, the Ambassador of Greece to India. While I have been exposed to Greek cuisine earlier, it was the first time I tried out the wines, a white wine Moschofilero (mos-ko-fi-le-roh) and the other a red Agiorgitiko (ah-your-yee–ti-ko) With almost unpronounceable names (it took me 3-4 times of repeating after the Minister Economic & Commercial, Embassy of Greece, Andreas Karaiskakis, before getting the names right) I found the wines simple, the red almost bordering on rustic. I guess my palate needs more exposure to the flavours of the country’s grape varietals. I also feel, as do many others, that wine always tastes better where it is produced. So had I been drinking these sitting in a taverna, overlooking the blue waters of the Aegean Sea, either in Santorini or Mykonos, the same wines would have tasted different.
Greek cuisine, according to me, is the simplest and most uncomplicated of all cuisines, almost Spartan in its approach. The sauces are not complex like the French cuisine and the focus is more on flavour and freshness. Simple seasoning like olive oil, lemon, oregano and basil does the trick. The emphasis on the use of fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables, beans, grain, nuts, chicken, fish, red wine, cheese and only moderate use of red meat, makes it extremely healthy. My first encounter with Greek food was at a mall in the United States many years ago, where the longest line in the food court was at a stall selling Gyros. Pronounced yi-ro, it is basically a sandwich comprising of sliced meat served in a lightly grilled pita with tzatziki (dip made of yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil) rolled up with onions, tomatoes and some lettuce. Well this is how the Americans make it. Subsequent Greek meals have been at Thalassa in Goa run by a feisty Greek lady Mariketty, where I have my fill of Horiatiki (Greek salad), Dolmadakia, Saganaki, and Kleftiko, during my various trips to Goa. Though the food here is good, the view of the sunset is even better.
It was the dishes created by the talented duo of Chef Paris and Chef Petros at the opening dinner of the 10 day festival at Olive Bar & Kitchen, hosted by AD Singh, which really made me sit up and take notice of Greek cuisine in its modern avatar. Traditional Greek salad served on crispy bread with tiny balls of feta covered with desiccated olives, cool tzatziki providing a foil to the grilled meats, in this case the chicken souvlaki, prawn served with sour pasta which looks like risotto and the flakiest and most delicious Phyllo Mille-feuille yogurt mousse. The presentation and taste both impeccable. Those who wish to try out Chef Paris’s creations along with some Greek wines can do so at the festival “My Greek Kouzína” which is on at Olive Qutub till the 2nd of December.
The Greek Fiesta Dinner at the Skydeck Lounge, the Greek restaurant at The Leela Ambience Gurgaon, opened my eyes ever further to the versatility and genius of the two chefs. The hot mezzes of Kefdethes meatballs and Prawn saganaki were better than the ones I have eaten at many other Greek restaurants. The Spinach and feta cheese ravioli with grilled halloumi cheese tasted as good as it looked. The char on the lamb rack was delicious. There was a heavenly dessert of Baklava carpaccio with yogurt mousse, honey walnuts and Kalamata olives in Cabernet Sauvignon syrup. Only the vegetarian moussaka fell a little short for me as I found it a little dry. The view from the Skydeck may not be what one gets at Thalassa, but unbeatable all the same. It’s amazing how Michel Koopman has turned Leela Gurgaon around ever since he took over as the General Manager. I do hope some of the dishes I tried out at the Greek Fiesta dinner are incorporated in the regular menu at Skydeck.
So as they say in Greek “kali-orexi” or Bon Appétit !
By : Lavina Kharkwal