Polly Maggoo

Monday, October 11, 2010 0 comments
A small menu—15 items in total—that includes offbeat items such as liver, snails, trahana (pebbly pasta with a sour taste) and kavourma (spiced, preserved pork, beef or buffalo) is a sign that someone in the kitchen has a point of view and is willing to stand by it. Indeed, the kitchen master behind the stove at a relatively new, small, hip place in Metaxourgio, Polly Maggoo, is good at what he does: cooking up haute fare with flare and a sense of grounding.
Polly Maggoo is a not-so-classic French restaurant in a totally Greek neighborhood in the historic heart of downtown Athens. The décor is simple, almost bland, I’d say, but the food shines. If you are new to Athens, the area is worth discovering.
The best dish we had was the simplest: a plate of perfectly cooked al dente lentils in a tangy mustard vinaigrette that comes capped with a perfectly poached egg. The snails are of the French persuasion, shelled, that is, so you don’t have to hassle with them, and served in a tasty tomato-herb-garlic sauce. I learned something I didn’t know before about the charcuterie of Greece: that Drama produces pastrami, which here comes in thick, wide slices partnered with soft, warm goat’s cheese over a generous bowl of salad greens.
Main courses apparently were limited, as evinced by the fact that four out of six of us ordered the same plate, a beautifully prepared fresh cod fillet served with warm potatoes, capers, and parsley. Aioli, a kind of garlic mayonnaise, is served on the side. It was very good. The saffron-scented fish soup, not unlike a bouillabaisse, was also very good. I was tempted by the pennes with spicy kavourma, capers and cream but the summer’s lingering heat got to me and it seemed too warm for such indulgences.
Desserts we bypassed altogether, not for the lack of them but for the good of our waistlines. Would I come back to Polly Maggoo: O, yes, gladly.
Cuisine: French but simple
Athens Area: downtown Athens
a little too minimal for moi
Service: a little slow, with just one waiter in the room
Wine List: good list with reasonable prices
Prices: 30-40 euro a person
Address: 80, Leonidou & Salaminos str., Metaxourgio, tel. 210 5241120
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To Kalosorisma tou Antoni

The prospect of savoring a goat-meat makaronada/pasta on a pleasantly chilly night sent me from the comforts of my apartment to the fringes of Kifissia, Athens' well-known northern suburb. Destination: a large, pleasingly busy (it was a Wednesday night) restaurant called to Kalosorisma tou Antoni, which, roughly translated, means "Antoni's Welcome." The building, at first sight, set me aback. It looked like an 'exohiko kentro' (sprawling, family taverna), the kind of place you take your inlaws on a Sunday afternoon or hold the reception for a christening. But the garden is alluring. It is filled with heavy, white, metal furniture, lots of greenery, and waiters from a slightly passe era.  The service at this high-end taverna, which morphed from a longstanding humble place called Spyro's in Kypseli, a downtown neighborhood, into this northern suburb hot spot, was impeccable. Antoni, of course, was there, as gracious and friendly a host as could be, with the consummate outgoing personality of a good restaurateur.
The food was very good. No fancy fare here is to be found here, just straightforward home cooking with absolutely NO attitude. Our meal started with a simple medley of boiled vegetables, including runner beans, ambelofasoula in Greek, cooked as a cold salad with whole zucchini (a Greek summer classic). The portion was generous and nicely laid out on the platter. The dish needed a little salt, but so did most things we sample. I liked the homemade zucchini pie, the filling of which was more like a soufflé of zucchini and cheeses than a pure medley of veggies and herbs. I liked the idea that they have “palikaria” on the menu, an ancient dish of mixed beans and grains from Crete, which dates back to the ancient offerings of grains during harvest fests.  
The main courses were very good, too. A generous, homey dish of that goat-meat makaronada consisted of a chunk of tender shank, meat falling deliciously off the bone, thick tube spaghetti and coarsely grated myzithra cheese, a common hard, whey cheese that Greeks use like parmesan. We loved it. The stifado (stew with whole small onions) of wild boar, hunted at the very civilized Farma Fotiades (Fotiades Farm) in N. Greece, was deceptively light, the onions cooked to perfect sweetness, still whole, and not too caramelized. The tomato sauce was a little lighter and looser than I like it to be in this classic Greek dish.
Dessert was on the house: excellent vyssino (sour) cherries strained for liqueur and spooned over mastiha ice cream and a dark, rich, unctuous, chocolate mousse. The watermelon, while sweet, was totally overpowered by them.
We would gladly enjoy another welcoming meal at Antoni’s.
Cuisine: Greek classics at their best (Greek Cuisine Award for 2009)Athens Area: northern suburbs
nice decor, but the garden saves it all
very good
Wine List: 
A little steeper than I anticipated, at around 30-35 euro a person (with house wine)Address: 41, Georgiou Lyra str., Nea Kifissia, tel. 210 8017869 , 210 8018457
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With friends in town from overseas, we were out and about in the center of Athens, looking for an iconic Greek place for lunch. I had been to Ouzadiko but once since its founders, Stella and Takis, sold it two years ago, so I was curious to see how this standard bearer of excellent meze fare was holding up.
Ouzadiko is located in the atrium of the Lemos Center in Kolonaki. We got there a little early for lunch a la Grecque and the place was relatively quiet. Ouzadiko, for those who don't know it, is the hangout of upper-crust intelligentsia, Athens style. 
The décor hasn’t changed since the takeover. Several tables were reserved but we found one easily.  As the place filled up it was sort of comforting to see that this small classic place still attracted its usual array of Athens power brokers, from famous heads of newspapers to financial and lawyer types in need of some Greek home cooking.
The menu, like the décor, has remained almost exactly as it was under Stella’s rein. I always have a strange sense of foreboding in restaurants that “buy” the whole package, down to the recipes, and carry on someone else’s legacy. The only other place like that is Edodi, which I haven’t been to in years but was for a long time the carrier of another chef’s fame.
The torch at Ouzadiko flickers; I wouldn’t say that is shines as bright as it did when Stella oversaw the kitchen. The edge is missing.
For example, a simple greens salad, Mihalis’ salad, was dead on arrival, having left the kitchen with more than a few wilted and brown lettuce leaves, an indication that the attention to detail is lacking now. One of my favorite Ouzadiko classics, black eyed peas with greens, used to be an ode to Ladera (olive oil based dishes), deliciously textured, sweet, and soothing. The version we sampled was competent and maybe someone unfamiliar with the dish would not have noticed, but I found it bland and spiritless. The flatbread sticks of yore so delicious with Ouzadiko’s still good smokey eggplant salad, were soft and old.
We ordered a plate of grilled sardines, which were ok; the fried gavro (anchovies) were much better, crisp and fresh. So were the “orphaned” meatballs that my 9-year-old son approved of in the first bite. Still juicy and succulent after all these years. A grilled haloumi meze was exceedingly small in portion size.
Ouzadiko is still a popular place and the food is decent, maybe even better than many other Kolonaki haunts. But I still have vivid memories of exceptional meals here. The attention to detail seems somehow to have dulled. What about just trying a few dishes that are new and personal, and not just the watered down continuation of someone else’s legacy?
Cuisine: classics unchanged over time
Athens Area: center, Kolonaki
buzzing power place still popular after all these years
Wine List: ouzo and wines to satisfy a wide range of palates
Prices: 25-30 euros a person
25-29, Karneadou str. (Lemos center)tel. 210-7295484

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