Traveling provides opportunities to encounter new foods, new ingredients, and new preparations. I’m always on the lookout for eateries run by talented chefs. I’m thrilled when I find a dish I’ve never heard of before, and order it immediately, just to discover what I’ve been missing.
As a visitor, it can be daunting to choose from all the offerings in cities with vibrant culinary scenes, like Seattle, London, San Francisco, and Athens. Yes, Athens. Some imagine the only restaurant food in Athens is moussaka, souvlaki, and vegetables swimming in olive oil. If it ever was, that stereotype is no longer true.
Starting about ten years ago, and continuing to today, Athens has experienced a culinary renaissance. Young Greek chefs have been opening restaurants in seedy run-down industrial neighborhoods. These chefs are exploring the depth and breadth of traditional Greek cuisine, using the freshest local ingredients. Many apply culinary insights they brought home from working in restaurants around the world.
Some of my best restaurant finds are by happenstance, strolling through changing neighborhoods, peering into doorways, and scanning posted menus. That’s how I recently found my new favorite restaurant in Athens, Logia tis Ploris.
Logia tis Ploris is a fish taverna, on a narrow pedestrian walkway, in a quiet, aging, residential neighborhood one block off busy Peiraios Street. The young owners have tastefully renovated a neoclassical house, and serve food one is more likely to encounter at a table near the sea than in downtown Athens.
The seafood at Logia tis Ploris is, without exception, delicious, impeccably fresh, and skillfully cooked. The preparations are simple and straightforward, and properly allow the high-quality ingredients to shine. The prices are reasonable; we paid 20€ per person for our meals, including wine.
We ate at Logia tis Ploris two nights in a row, and would have gone for a third and a fourth had we more time in Athens. Each meal started with a complementary bowl of Beet and Yogurt Spread, accompanied by tiny glasses of tsipouro and crunchy croutons. Though composed from simple ingredients, the flavor of the spread was complex and addictive.
Both nights we gorged on a variety of appetizers (mezedes), all of which were excellent, including:
–Fava Pantremeni (pureed yellow split peas with capers, tomatoes, and onions)
–Octopus Fritters (minced octopus in batter, deep-fried)
–Grilled Crab (large, meaty crab, cracked and lightly dressed with olive oil)
–Cheese Pies from Milos (small, crunchy pastries, filled with fresh cheese and seasoned with mint)
–Sea Urchin Salad (a bowl of salty-sweet sea urchin roe and their juices, with country bread to spoon it over)
–Fish “Pastourma” (thinly sliced cod, lightly smoked over beech, and seasoned with paprika and salt)
–Shrimp Simiotika (crispy, dry-fried, sweet, baby shrimp to be eaten shells and all)
–Shellfish “tis Ploris” (three varieties of Greek bivalves – cockles, Venus clams, and razor clams – cooked with white wine, onions, and dill).
To accompany the food, we ordered seafood-friendly house white wine by the carafe – which turned out to be bottomless. As soon as our carafe was empty, the owner quickly refilled it – at no charge to us, an example of Greek hospitality at its finest.
When we finished eating our mezedes, the owner brought out what appeared to be white after-dinner mints. He poured lemon water over the white tablets, which dramatically expanded into two-inch tall cylinders. We laughed with glee when we discovered the cylinders were lovely lemon-scented towelettes for cleaning our seafood soaked hands.
Logia tis Ploris is near the new Kerameikos metro stop, and within easy walking distance of Plaka, where many visitors to Greece stay during their Athens’ vacations. It is well worth the trip.
Now we’re back in Alaska, and haven’t stopped thinking about our meals at Logia tis Ploris. We can’t recreate the flower-scented night air, or the graciousness of our host, but I’ve done my best to recreate some of the flavors we enjoyed.