O Naftis

Friday, January 29, 2010 0 comments

I can think of better names for a fish restaurant than "O Naftis" (The Sailor) and I can certainly name a dozen places with more pleasant design than O Naftis, in Halandri, but despite some of the drawbacks the food here, while simple and straightforward, was surprisingly good.
O Naftis is housed on the ground floor of an existing restaurant, Manteio, right on Palaiologou, the main street. It is a little confusing. When you walk in you aren’t quite sure what restaurant you are walking into but you do notice right away the colors of the sea and the motifs of a ship in the back. That’s O Naftis. Wooden floors, maritime paraphernalia right down to the bousoula, and paintings of sea life, boats, etc. attempt to create a certain atmosphere. Rolled up sails divide the seating areas. The tables are colored in Aegean-blue tablecloths and the chairs are upholstered in white. The place is cramped with lots of furniture. By the looks of it, O Naftis doesn’t quite seem like a great port of call.
On the other hand, we had a very good meal here. A gilt-head bream (tsipoura) ran 60 euros a kilo and was wild and grilled perfectly, tender, juicy, delicious. A homemade taramosalata with white tarama (carp roe) was delicious, looser than the usual stodgy stucco that is more potato or bread than fish eggs that one finds in so many seafood places. We tried a dish of tiny fried squid, which were perfectly fried, too, not at all greasy, crisp, well-seasoned and tasty. The grilled mussels had a lovely texture and the pan juices that they rested on were very good. There are some other, rare, offerings that we didn’t sample, including the king crabs (vasiliko kavouri) and a host of shellfish, among them razor clams (petrosolines). The rest of the menu includes a classic array of Greek fish and seafood cookery, especially as it’s represented in tavernas: shrimps fried, grilled, and cooked as saganaki; mussels saganaki; anchovies (gavros) both marinated and fried; and various seafood-themed salads. Main courses besides whole fresh fish include lobster and shrimp pasta. We ordered a wintry boiled vegetable salad and relished the flavor of this humble place’s excellent olive oil, “from somewhere in the Peloponnese,” as the owner cryptically said.
This is a place for groups of friends who want an old-fashioned taverna, before the age when designers set the tone for restaurants, where the food is simple, straightforward and good.

Cuisine: classic fish and seafood taverna with an excellent hand at the grill
Athens Area: northern suburbs
Decor-Atmosphere: pre-design age room like the tavernas of a generation ago
Service: friendly and accomodating
Wine List: limited but competent
Prices: 35-55 euro a person
Address: 15A, Konstantinou Palaiologou str., Halandri
Telephone: 210-6810570

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I thought I had exhausted the Asian restaurants in the vicinity of Syntagma, mainly as a frequent customer at Furin Kazan and the noodle shop diagonally up the street on Apollonos street. But Dosirak, while it hadn’t quite escaped me, was not on my radar screen until my friend E mentioned it was her new favorite sushi place. Dosirak is not run by Japanese, but by Koreans, who also have a tradition of sushi. It’s a family restaurant and the family’s daughter, born and raised here, speaks perfect Greek. On a Thursday night, the place was busy. On a Friday night, the waitress had to turn away group after group. This place is popular among a certain set—hip Greeks without very deep pockets, hip foreigners, and Asians. We had a very good meal.
Dosirak is simply but pleasantly appointed. Paper lanterns protrude from holes in the ceiling in an attractive, comforting way, casting a warm glow over the lean room. A few touches of wood and black make up the basic design elements, lending a clean, uncluttered air to the place. The kitchen is visible, busy, but not intrusive on the rest of the space. The tables are spaced well apart despite the small room.
Korean specialties like kimchi (a kind of vegetable) and excellent barbecue are among the signatures on this menu. We tried the Korean bulgogi, a savory mixture of thinly sliced beef and onions. The dish is not much to look at but the onions give it a pleasant sweetness. The seaweed salad is really a mixed green salad with a little seaweed, in the form of thinly shredded, tasty strands, added to it. It’s fine—a little underseasoned that night. There is a fairly large noodle selection and some unusual meat specialties, among which is a duck teriyaki (skewers of duck) and a Korean fried pork called Tonkatsu. I wanted something light and went for the sashimi, large platter, with 21 pieces, much of it tuna and salmon. It was fresh and tender but could possibly have been a touch colder. The royal crunch maki, which my friend shamelessly indulged in, is a large roll of rice and seafood with a sesame-seaweed ring that holds the whole thing together.
Dosirak is a restaurant that speaks tomes about how this city has changed. Just up the street is one of the most traditional Greek tavernas and just about the only place worth eating Greek food in the environs of Plaka. But this particular corner of Voulis and Apollonos have become a kind of little Asia, with a grocer and a few restaurants all within a minute’s walk of one another.

Cuisine: Korean specialties, Sushi and other Asian dishes.
Athens area: Syntagma 
Decor-Atmosphere: Simple, lean, pleasant.
Service: Good
Wine List: Competent for a place that is out of the Greek loop. Try the beers instead.
Prices: 25-35 euro per person
Address: 33, Voulis str., Syntagma 
Telephone: 210-3233330, 210-3233396 

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