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Bacaro

Friday, November 6, 2009 0 comments

Bacaro

Boy was it a night to remember. We had gone to see the award-winning “future of Greek cinema,” Kynodontas (Dogtooth), after reading more than a few amazing reviews. We left the theatre really pissed off, in a really bad mood, feeling as though we had just spent two hours inside the disturbed, deranged mind of someone in desperate need of some serious psychotherapy. (That said, the film left a dent in my conscience; it is memorable and highly original). We needed a little fun. The bars on Christou Lada str. were already packed—maybe with earlier movie-goers in need of some alcohol to relieve—pun intended—something worse than a toothache. We headed to Bacaro, in a stoa off Sofokleous Street and readied ourselves for a party.

Bacaro is an unusual place. It’s situated both inside the stoa and inside a regular space. There is live music on the weekends. The band that night was impressive. A Nigerian singer rapped in perfect Greek and bounced around to the well-honed rhythms of the jazz-funk group. We drank and ate and drank and ate in a conscious effort to fix our collective mood.

The food at Bacaro is pretty good! The starters are all artfully presented and tasty. Even simple dishes such as the small pita wedges with tomato, grilled haloumi cheese and basil purée looked pretty and tasted good. A napoleon of grilled vegetables and manouri cheese was balanced and robust, with a balsamic dressing. The savory loukoumades (dough fritters) filled with cheese and dressed with honey and sesame were delicious, a definite advance on the cheese croquette theme that was once part of every menu in town.

I liked the Caesar’s salad, despite the fact that it wasn’t quite authentic. The anchovies were, if not absent completely, then very hard to see or taste. The bacon added a tangy note in their place. Other salads included an arugula and cherry tomato mélange, with sliced olives, grilled haloumi, and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette; spinach and carrot salad with mushrooms, sesame, prosciutto and honey vinaigrette; and a mixed winter salad with oranges, gorgonzola, hazelnuts and berry vinaigrette.

The linguine with vegetables, thyme, roasted tomatoes and manouri was very nice. Other pasta and risotto selections included penne with salmon and saffron, an interpretation of carbonara with bacon, mushrooms, zucchini and tarragon, and a risotto with marinated zucchini, dry vermouth and thyme.

Main courses included grilled chicken with honey-mustard sauce, beef fillet with wine sauce, pork loin stuffed with smoked metsovone cheese and eggplant purée, and a cheese burger.

We didn’t try the main courses, but with all that we did eat we drank a delicious bottle of Refosco, then another, and another. Numbed to the pain of an aching Dogtooth, we swayed to the music and enjoyed the rest of the night.


Cuisine: Mediterranean grazing food, perfect for the venue
Athens Area: Athens downtown
Decor-Atmosphere: Easy, casual fun in a great little downtown restaurant-cabaret
Service: Professional
Prices: 30-40 euro per person, with wine
Address: Sofokleous 1, Athens center
Telephone: 210- 3211882
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Pantos Kairou

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My sister had been telling me about this little place for ages. She spends half the year here in Greece, a good part of it in Piraeus, and she is on a constant search for the holes in the wall with good home cooking so she doesn’t have to do it herself. Pantos Kairou, which more or less translates as “For Every Season,” is a small, modern meze restaurant in the heart of Piraeus, diagonally across the street from the Demotiko Theatro (the huge old public theatre that is now undergoing renovation). It’s on a small pedestrian path. The main dining area is done up in pale shades of yellow, peach and beige, with warm lighting and a pared down contemporary look, almost Swedish modern. The look belies the totally authentic, classic, very well-executed Greek cuisine that comes out of the kitchen. The only giveaway that there is something comfortingly old-fashioned about this place is the collection of antique toy cars and vespas on the shelves, which occupied my eight-year-old son’s interest for most of our lovely meal. I saw lots of women back there and one guy the Sunday afternoon we went. This might sound sexist, but I could tell there was a woman’s hand preparing some of the food we tried. Lunch started with a delicious plate of grilled, marinated pleurotus mushrooms that were meaty without being tough. The fava (yellow split pea purée) was one of the best I’ve ever had. The yellow split peas were puréed to a soft, velvety texture, drizzled with a little green extra-virgin olive oil, and served forth in a compartmentalized plate, so that garnishes—raw red onion, capers, and green olives—were separate. You spooned what you liked on top of your own portion. The arugula salad was less democratic. This came already dressed—a little overdressed—in a strong balsamic dressing with long strips of parmesan and clumps of soft myzithra cheese tossed into the salad. It was a little too acidic. One of the things I always hanker after in tavernas and small meze places is one of the things I rarely cook at home: batter-fried salt cod and skordalia (garlic dip). At Pantos Kairou, the cod was perfect. It had been desalted to just the right degree and was juicy, so that you got both the crunch of a perfectly fried batter crust and a tender piece of fish inside. The skordalia was mild, smooth, and made with potatoes. A litmus test for me when I eat in tavernas is the bifteki (a Greek burger). The one here is tender and tasty. The only dish I did not like were the fries, another test for any kitchen. I think these were precut, judging from their size and shape. That’s not so much the issue—they were soft and soggy and underseasoned. Dessert is on the house: an old-fashioned piece of kormos—that’s Greek for trunk, as in tree trunk, as in a sweet made of broken up biscuits, butter, and chocolate, shaped into a log and cut into thin marbled pieces. It came doused in commercial chocolate sauce. It would have been better naked!
We had a couple carafes of the house red and white wines and, most importantly, satisfied my sister’s desire to have a home cooked meal—just not in her own home! Would I come back here again? Yes…


Cuisine: Traditional Greek cooking
Athens Area: Center of Piraeus
Decor-Atmosphere: Simple, modern
Service: 
Homey
Prices: 
15-20 euro a person
Address: Ag. Konstantinou 5, Demotiko Theatro, Pireaus
Telephone: 210-4220222

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