Greek cuisine beyond mythology at Greek Deli
It was a typical Thursday night on Chapel Street in South Yarra, well so I thought until I saw two bronze clad ‘warriors’ fiercely guarding the entrance of the Greek Deli and Taverna for its inaugural Mythological Greek Table night.
According to restaurant owner, Jim Pothitos, the aim of the night was to give people a taste of Greek food and to provide an introduction into Greek mythology, culture and cooking.
It would be like an ancient Greek symposium, in which people would dine, drink and converse amongst traditional Greek music. Yet, no symposium in ancient Greece would begin without a libation to the Gods and so it began.
The warriors entered the dining space holding a red wine offering in one hand and a basil branch in the other, which they dipped into holy water and flicked across the room.
Chanting in ancient Greek, they invited Zeus to cleanse the room of evil and then splashed the bowl of wine onto the ground as an offering.
After repeating the ritual for Athena and Apollo, the space was ‘cleansed’ and guests began their first course.
First to arrive was fresh shucked Tasmanian oysters dressed with a strong garlic a la greque dressing.
A mezze of marinated kalamata olives, dill speckled tzatziki and cucumber fingers shortly followed, complimented nicely with a light and fruity glass of Tyrrell’s Belford Semillion 04.
The olives, cured with orange rind and a red chilli were a unique yet superb combination.
The standout would have to be the Ktenia saganaki; a hearty bowl of oven baked King Island scallops in a tomato based sauce. The scallops were tender, the sauce rich and thick, with a slight kick of chilli, and a sprinkling of feta over the top.
The accompanying side of green beans and red onions was no typical tomato drenched fasolakia dish. The green beans had been slow cooked, releasing their natural sweetness, and the onion and garlic caramelised, contrasting the sweet with a slightly smoky flavour.
Breaking up the feast was a discussion on the changing role of Greek cuisine throughout history, presented by Hellenic Museum CEO, Vicky Yianoulatos.
She spoke of the upper class ancient Athenians of 3000BC who were hand fed grapes whilst indulging in diluted wine, and the culinary influences of the Persians during the Byzantine era. Here, she pointed out is when Greek staples such as kouftedes, domades, and moussaka first emerged.
Also discussed was the Turkish influence on Greek food during the Ottoman Empire, which leaves one to muse over the true origins of baklava and Greek coffee.
Ms Yianoulatos concluded with the influences of migrants as they spread their Greek culinary influences throughout the world.
Chef Nick Pothitos toyed with contemporary Greek cuisine extending beyond the traditional menu that one would expect.
But did it work?
The Gippsland quail wrapped in angel noodles dusted in bahari though succulent was slightly bland in flavour, whilst the toffee-crusted rice pudding brulee was a clear winner.
Creamier and moreish compared to the original, it deserves a place on the menu as a permanent indulgence.
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