Aleria is one of the city’s most attractive restaurants, details of which you can read in the previous review inserted below. In past years Gikas Xenakis had made a name for himself at Breeze Café with his stylish and perfectly executed dishes. More recently, on the occasion of daily specials or gastronomy festivals, he has experimented more with Greek cuisine, imparting aromas and Greek soul to his dishes rather than following traditional recipes or paths. His move to Aleria appears to be the culmination of his creative development over the years.
The new menu has a manifestly Greek flair, with Gikas proposing seasonal fare that highlights more ‘humble’ principal ingredients, all at attractive prices (first courses €9-12, main courses €14-20). In this respect, the move represents a clear development not only for the young chef but also for the restaurant, which now seems to have acquired a more solid concept. Of course two inescapable, or rather, provocative questions must be answered: is the food here better than it was at Breeze Café? And... is Aleria’s food better with Gikas Xenakis than it was with Komninos Mouflouzelis?
It would be difficult to answer these questions in the affirmative; after all, in both cases the bar had been set high. But I will tell you something, because rhetoric is one thing and substance quite another. I believe the answer to both questions will very soon be ‘yes’ and my rating today is precisely this, a vote of confidence in the immediate future. Having said this, I must again stress that the progress even at this stage is plain to see, taking the form of a very convincing concept at brilliantly matched prices.
Leaving theories and questions aside, let us now move on to the dishes. Gikas Xenakis has a remarkable ability; he manages to refine strong flavours whilst at the same time endowing his dishes with tastiness and comfort. If you want to experience this, simply try some of the first dishes on the menu (which are also the most successful). The cod brandade balls were served on a bed of outstanding spinach rice and a little spicy mayo with homemade tomato purée. An exquisite dish that radiates Greece and freshness, which at the same time was marvellously balanced. If the cod balls had been a little crisper, then we would be talking about a very high standard. Generally speaking, I could say that the game of textures is something I missed in Xenakis’ cuisine. Equally good was the moist mackerel in a vinaigrette of raisins, garlic, oil and sherry vinegar on fluffy parsley salad. The risotto-style trachanas with wild mushroom ragout was another superbly prepared dish, with a full, bold flavour that does not for one moment tilt towards rustic. Just like the potato gnocchi with braised beef and an incredibly delicate cream from arseniko cheese of Naxos. Turning to the main dishes, the standard dips a little. The sea bass was very slightly overcooked, somewhat dry and not particularly good in terms of the fish itself (but then again, to be fair, at these prices...), however it went wonderfully with the cauliflower tabbouleh and the lime and curry vinaigrette, whilst the cauliflower purée underneath was excellent, and generally I hate cauliflower. In contrast, the beef cheeks cooked in red wine with a little ginger and lemongrass were a delight, cleverly accompanied by green amaranth and mashed potato, which however could have been tastier. Of the desserts, I singled out the crispy millefeuille with galaktoboureko cream, orange confit and spicy herbs.
Summing up, I would just like to say that with Gikas Xenakis, Aleria is currently one of the most interesting restaurants in Athens and deserves to do very well!
- Phone: (+30210) 5222633
- Address: Megalou Alexandrou 47, Metaxourgeio, Athens
- Website: http://www.aleria.gr
Open for dinner every day, except Sunday.
- Price per person (€)*: € 40-55
- * we do our best to reflect the actual price range per-person of a full meal including first and main courses, desert, water and half a bottle of wine or one beer depending on the type of restaurant.
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