Oh My Grek Week (OMGW) kicked off yesterday for its second year, with the much anticipated Progressive Feast.
Monday felt like a balmy Friday last night in spite of the storm, thanks to the OMGW event divided in three dining sessions through George Calomabris’ Flinders Street suite of restaurants.
At 7pm, Neos Kosmos and several more lucky guests arrived at GAZI restaurant to enjoy starters and an appetizer cocktail.
Chris Houseas, pioneer bartender and bar owner of the cocktail bar 42, who has spent most of his life behind some of the most iconic Athenian bars, establishing what is now known as the new era of the Greek bartending prepared and served up ‘Ground Control’. This first specimen, aimed to titillate our tastebuds and awaken our senses was a mix of Lazaridis Methexis Muscat Distillate, Campari, sage, mastiha and gentian root. Houseas’ experience has led to the creation of ‘Bassbreak’, a project with the vision to change the way bartenders work, to a more updated, sophisticated and modern technique. Bassbreak’s proud first product is The Stirrer, which is designed by drawing inspiration from the swirling of a propeller.
Following the cocktails came a set of imaginative starters accompanied by a palate cleanser, all based on zucchini. Young-gun Chef Polychronis Damalas from Santorini’s Cavo Tagoo surprised us with three different hors d’oeuvres.
Having worked in some of the top restaurants around the world (New York, France, Spain, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Dubai, Iceland, Greece), Polychronis Damalas has received many awards during his career and he is considered as one of the most creative chefs of his generation. He specializes in Japanese cuisine, with emphasis to the Jap-Greek fusion, and that is exactly what he impressed us with.
First to arrive was a stunning kolokythoanthos (stuffed zucchini flower) on a tile. I’m still struggling to identify the herbs and spices he used for the filling and sauces, to achieve the ultimate balance he presented the guests with. We were all sad we only got one! The kolokythokeftes (kakiage zucchini) that came next made up for it, with a bouquet of minty and dill-infused flavours in the most thinly crisped batter. This was served with a cucumber-y sorbet. Last but not least for the Gazi session, the kolokythopita, zucchini pie- in the form of a gyoza dumpling with feta.
For the mains we were transferred next door, to The Press Club. The staff greeted us with a smile and a refreshing, chilled glass of 2014 Gentilini Robola from Cephalonia. The first dish, the most stunning magiritsa I’ve ever seen; a liquid painting starring prawns, Morten bay bug, mussels, nori, aromatic greens and Greek lettuce by the hands of Gikas Xenakis (see below).
Chef Xenakis is a prominent member of the “New Greek Cuisine” movement and executive chef of the multi award-winning Athenian restaurant Aleria. His philosophy combines modern cooking techniques with his memories of traditional home cooked food, utlising the best and freshest ingredients that the sea and land of Greece has to offer.
A generous taste of the Mitravelas Estate 2012 Nemea Red came just in time for Alex Tsiotinis’ stifado. Executive chef Alexandros Tsiotinis is one of the most acclaimed young chefs in Greece. He has achieved culinary greatness by creating a gastronomic experience through his food, at his Athenian restaurant CTC. In 2015, Alex’s signature dish “Cretan Salad in a Pot” earned him the number one position for the Mediterranean region in the San Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year competition.
The reworked stifado he presented yesterday took wagyu beef to the next level, with the help of salsify textures and sweet onions.
Even though we thought we had no room for dessert our final stop with star pastry chef Stelios Parliaros (Sweet Alchemy) hosting and preparing delectable desserts at Press Club – Projects, George’s experimental kitchen, accompanied by perfectly matched cocktail by one of Athens’ finest mixologists was enough to cave in.
With a long and acclaimed career, Stelios Parliaros is acknowledged as one of the greatest pastry chefs in Greece and an undisputed master of creativity. He is best known in his native country as the founder and creative mind behind Sweet Alchemy, one of the most famous pastry shops in Athens, with locations in Kolonaki and in Kifisia. He is also the star of the well-known television program ‘Sweet Alchemy’, one of the longest running and beloved cooking shows in Greece.
For this first OMGW dinner, the Sweet Alchemist mustered up a delicious karythopita, aka moist nut cake, with yoghurt cream and honey-based fig compote and mastiha. Chris Houseas once again delivered with the best dessert cocktail ‘Intimacy’, featuring anis, chocolate and lemon.
Words are simply not enough and this was only day one.
Today, The Press Club welcomes a different combination of Calombaris’ esteemed guests for a five-course experience. The event is called ‘A night in Athens’ for a good reason as Greece’s top chefs take over The Press Club kitchen to recreate an experience of the Greek capital’s acclaimed contemporary dining scene. Among the all-star line-up: acclaimed chefs Georgianna Haliakaki and Nick Roussos from two Michelin star restaurant Funky Gourmet, the highly regarded Christoforos Peskias from hip bar and eatery Balthazar, Gikas Xenakis from Aleria, Alex Tisotinis from the famed CTC Restaurant and Athen’s most celebrated pastry chef, Stelios Parliaros. Accompaning this cosmopolitan feast, guests will be treated to specially designed cocktails created by mixologist Chris Houseas.