I embraced this quaint little restaurant on
Mantzarou Street in downtown when I visited it a year or so ago, liking the homey, cozy feel of the space and the artful but down-to-earth cuisine. A recent visit, however, left me with a less enamored feeling. Athens
We sat downstairs, in what essentially is the imiypogio (semi-basement), which was partly my fault for making a reservation at about on a Saturday night. The space, while cozy thanks to a warming, working fireplace, is cramped, so cramped that five of us could not sit facing one another round the table, but rather in a Pi (Π) formation, because the only other table downstairs was too close for chairs to sit back to back. I felt a little like a bridesmaid in a wedding party!
Cilentio’s menu is a potpourri of
Mediterranean and Greek dishes, with items like bresaola pouches, carpaccio (sooo last decade!!), grilled vegetables, and more making up the bulk of appetizers. A lot of Greek-Med combinations of flavors define the menu, in dishes like katiki cheese-jamon Serrano-Zucchini tart (an appetizer) and greens salad with grapes and manouri cheese. Other items are more hybrid—rooster stuffed with graviera cheese, spinach and bacon, salmon-broccoli “crumble”, black cod with Greek fava (split pea purée) are a few such examples. Some things are silly and out of place, like the 95 euro Wagyu fillet with Port sauce and truffled mashed potatoes. I wonder how many orders of this come in a night. This is a plate that belongs to fatter times, when people spent money with less hesitation.
Every meal starts here with a warm bowl of velouté. Ours was a base of celery, drizzled with olive oil. It had all the right soothing elements. A spinach-haloumi (cheese) salad was tasty and generously portioned. I liked the sweet and savory combination of flavors in those bresaola pouches, which come served with fig jam.
Main courses were pretty good. I ordered the duck, a weakness of mine when the mercury drops, as it had that night. It was a little over cooked for medium rare, as I had ordered it, and was tougher than I like it. On a scale of one to 10 I’d probably give it a seven. The wine sauce was tasty. Friends ordered the black cod with fava and wild mushroom sauce. The fish was nicely prepared. This dish is well composed and nicely presented. A rib-eye marinated in olive oil and seasoned with Himalayan salt (Messolonghi or Greek island seas salt isn’t tasty enough??) was competent.
I wasn’t thrilled with the desserts, which seemed a tad pretentious, especially the “modern” cheesecake, which was a cave-like mound of white cheese (cream cheese and whipped cream?) whose center was blood-red with a compote of berries. It looked like the sculpture of a small volcano rather than a soothing dessert. The coffee mousse with caramel foam, fried chocolate bits and cookies was ok, a little self-conscious and obviously anxious to impress.
I remember a better meal here the last time around. Maybe the key is to keep things just a little simpler.
Cuisine: Mediterranean and international pot-pourri
Athens Area: Downtown Athens
Decor-Atmosphere: Cozy, warm, low-key
Wine List: Good
Prices: 30-35 euro a person without wine
Address: 3 Mantzarou str. & 54, Solonos str. (paved walkway), Kolonaki