Thursday, October 22, 2009
In one week’s time I had the experience of dining on traditional cuisine revisited (Milton’s in the Plaka) and on traditional cuisine more or less the way our parents and grandparents know it, at Oikeio in Kolonaki. Expecting to fall in love with the fashionista version of Greek cooking, I found myself instead liking the comforts of well-known dishes simply prepared and served forth in a hip, obviously popular place right in the heart of the city. Oikeio has been going strong for a few years now, luring in the young jet set from Kolonaki and beyond with what could be aptly described as Greek soul food. Oikeio means familiar, and that's exactly what is serves forth: the familiar Greek food that makes up the repertoire of classic fare.

Indeed, the menu is a manifesto—literally—about what food means in Greek culture, with quotes by Kazantzakis, a brief history of bread, rice, olive oil, spoon sweets, wine, and more. It’s like a newspetter, in fact, with an article on food in the movies and on books of note. Too much to read while having dinner, especially in extremely crowded quarters where you can barely spread your elbows or fit the bread basket on the table, so I took it home…

Oikeio is like an over-filled house of nostalgic objects, put together like organized chaos, all of which somehow works. It is crowded and the tables are too close together—they seated three of us at a table upstairs that barely fit one. But the food is simple and good, just what it promises to be. The prices are right, too, especially surprising given the high-rent location on the corner of Ploutarchou Street.

Homemade savory pies, various salads (small portions), grilled brizoles, chicken breasts, biftekia, and a slew of daily specials make up the menu. We tried the coiled yogurt pie, the filling of which was a combination of yogurt and cheese. This is the kind of dish that’s easy to like even if it’s not superb—dough, cheese, fat, the trio that attracts most of the human race. The boiled vegetable salad was a surprisingly small portion, with zucchini, carrots and a few other things cut coin-size. It was so small we ended up ordering another salad, too, the Oikeio, with spinach, celery, tomatoes and haloumi. That came in a small portion, too. I ordered that day’s fish special—anchovies (gavros) in the oven with coriander. I liked it even though I was hoping to see fresh coriander and not the seeds. But it was fine, exactly the kind of thing that might come out of someone’s home oven on a weekday night. The octopus with short pasta was also homey and, well, oikeio. The tsipoura filet was less successful. It came wrapped in grape leaves but looked very tired when it arrived. The flavor was ok. The bulgur salad that accompanied it was good.

I liked Oikeio but think I’d like it even more for lunch when it is a little less crowded and noisy. Is it a sign of the times that on a Tuesday night it was mobbed?

Cuisine: Classic Greek home cooking
Athens Area: Kolonaki
Decor-Atmosphere: Like being in someone's living room
Service: Harried but friendly
Prices: 25 euro a person
Address: Ploutarhou 15
Telephone: 210 72 59 216