Because it is so dry, there are a lot of open air restaurants in Athens. This one had a patio awning covering most of the area, because the weather had been wetter than usual. On this evening, though, it was clear. Our host seated us at a table near the back wall of the patio where we had a view of the musicians on the other side of the space. We negotiated a litre of retsina with a series of smiles, nods and hand gestures, then settled down to peruse the menu.
As I said in a previous post, the descriptions were straightforward to the point of being sparse. Roasted lamb. Roasted chicken. Pan fried squid. Rolled eggplant. Some things I had an idea of from visiting Greek restaurants in Canada. Like Moussaka, which was defined as a ground beef casserole. Well, yes, but it’s so much more than just a casserole.
The retsina came in a charming pottery jug while we were still undecided on the meal, so we sipped while we studied the menu and tried to imagine what exactly came with the roast lamb and if the pan fried squid included a sauce and pan fried vegetables as well. Since the menu didn’t help and our waiter didn’t have enough English to go into details, speculation could only go so far. A decision was called for. We shared the eggplant appetizer, while I ordered the pan fried squid and Dave went for roasted chicken.
The customers in the restaurant were Greek and seemed to know each other, though they were seated in groups at separate tables, not as one single large group. Perhaps it was because they were all from the area, neighbours, in fact? Perhaps they were just happy, friendly people out for an evening. Impossible to tell.
We sipped our wine and speculated about our fellow diners while the musicians (a guitarist and a bouzouki player) sang and played. The musicians didn’t seem to have an off switch. They never took a break, even though we were there for a couple of hours.
Eventually the appetizer came. That was when we discovered how limited the information on the menu had been. The eggplant was thinly sliced then rolled around a savoury filling that was heavenly. Definitely a yumm moment. Our main courses followed and I realized that the menu was also bang on.
Dave’s plate had roasted potatoes and some vegetables along with the roasted chicken. I think my plate had some rice. I can’t remember precisely, because the focus of my attention was a squid. A very large squid that had been fried in a pan. The description was exactly what the item was.
Clearly the squid was a consciousness-raising squid, kind of like the octopus I once had in Mexico, which was a whole tentacle, uncut, suction cups an all. My Athenian squid was also the most enormous squid I’ve ever seen. The ones I’m used to are small, palm sized, and are usually served sliced into rings. With something else or perhaps breaded and deep fried. This guy would easily feed a couple of people. I looked at it and wondered how on earth I was going to consume this beast. Or if I actually wanted to.
The retsina was a big help in that regard. And I didn’t want to disappoint the friendly staff who were so concerned that we were enjoying ourselves. I dug into the squid and found it unexpectedly flavourful, if perhaps a little chewy. Though I wasn’t able to finish the squid, it was completely consumed by the time we left the restaurant, because I had help.
No, not Dave. The cats.