We had guests in town and wanted to go somewhere fashionably…inexpensive. ManiMani turned up on my radar screen, a place I’ve wanted to return to after visiting it when it first opened a few years ago. I am always interested in places that showcase the cuisine of a particular region, in this case the dry, majestic southern Peloponnese, known for its exquisite olive oil, meagre but essential cooking, and tough locals.
There is definitely a lot more from the Mani on the menu today than there was a few years back. Singlino (cured pork in olive oil), talagani (a lovely grilling cheese from Messinia, in the Pelop.), various local pastas, and more are among the ingredients that crop up all over the menu. Orange and lemon, so important in the flavor palette of the southern Peloponnese, grace many dishes. The space, an old house near the Acropolis Museum, is lovely, well preserved, and simply but pleasantly appointed, the kind of space most of us can easily fantasize living in.
Despite the numerous things in its favor, ManiMani disappointed us a little. The main reason has to do with where the emphasis is in the kitchen and on the menu: making the plates look impressive but not tending as carefully as possible to the actual flavors in each dish. A trilogy of cold dips (fava (yellow split pea puree), tyrokafteri (spicy cheese dip), melitzanosalata (eggplant salad)) comes in annoyingly small portions. Ditto on the trilogy of saganakis (fried cheese), one with haloumi cheese, one with talagani cheese, one with manouri cheese. There were four of us, and it wasn’t enough to go around. Looked good, though! The homemade ravioli filled with chard, myronia(wild chervil), kafkalithres (Mediterranean hartwort) and served with feta cheese sauce seemed anemic. I expected a really flavorful filling and a pungent sauce and what I got were a few insipid half-moons barely filled with greens and a sauce where the cheese had either been left out or was so little that it was indiscernible. The greens salad with a round of grilled manouri cheese, served as an upright cylinder, looked great and tasted fine.
We ordered three mains. The rooster with noodles was very salty, and that noted from a palate that adores salt. I liked the fried salt cod a lot, although I thought there was a little too much going on on the plate between the bed of greens and the various inter-flowing sauces in different colors. The lavraki (sea bass) with fennel cream was perfectly pan-seared, crisp and tender; the fennel cream could have had more personality.
We skipped dessert but indulged in two bottles of wine.
A little refinement is what ManiMani needs. If they achieve that, customers will come a-running, mani-mani (in greek this expression means quickly)…
Cuisine: Specialties and inspirations from the Southern Peloponnese
Athens Area: Athens neighborhood (Acropolis metro station)
Decor: simple, cozy, Greek
Wine List: good
Prices: 25-35 euro a person
Address: 10, Falirou str., Koukaki, tel.: 2109218180