27 January 2017
I had been exploring going to Varoulko, one of Greece’s most famous eateries, for months. But I just couldn’t really fit a run out to Piraeus for this relatively short trip. But my plans were altered this Friday because of a puzzling 4-hour strike by Athens Metro employees. I mean, closing the Metro from 1200-1600 on a Friday just makes me think they are taking the piss — and either going for a long lunch or a nice siesta before a long night of festivities. Ugh.
But Line 1 to Piraeus was open, so I opted to see if I can get a walk-in at this celebrated 1-Michelin legend here in Greece. I headed out and was very early so just wandered around the coast at the Mikrolimano area. Lovely, many of the eateries were just getting started. I walked to Varoulko and I asked if I could get a table when they open at 1300, and they said yes. Good.
I went a bit away and just relaxed at a wine bar, but after some time the indoor smoking just ruined it for me and I walked out and just wandered around more. If anything will keep me from coming back to Greece anytime soon, it is this awful, awful indoor smoking that just ruins a good dining experience.
I walked back to Varoulko and was seated at a place with a wonderful view of the water — but horribly hot as it was next to a super radiator. They shut it off so that helped, but I needed wine to cool off…
They presented me with a menu and today’s tasting menu, but frankly after 2 days of tastings I needed some flexibility, so I regretably declined and ordered a series of rather inky items. I relaxed with some wine and bread and enjoyed the view, which changed by the minute depending on whether the sharp Mediterranean sun poked through the thick winter clouds. Soon the first item arrived and I smiled.
It’s actually a cuttlefish ink and leek soup, and it was excellent. The wee mountain of crab was a wonderful and tasty addition. Soup was delicious and I mopped the bottom up with some good bread. An excellent start! Then my server told me I would love the next dish, and it arrived soon.
Wow. The aroma was overwhelmingly awesome, an amazing amount of crayfish essence in the air. I could smell it from steps away… The broth here was richly decadent, I felt almost guilty each bite! Now the “dolma” — but it’s almost like a modern holubtsa — was just, wow… Savoy cabbage wrapped the goodies stuff inside, which featured the aforementioned crayfish. Wow, this is gorgeous. One of the dishes of the young year so far!
My server guessed by my smile I loved it. The use of lemongrass was unexpected but really made that crawfish aroma even more awesome than it was. Then after a necessary break my main arrived — risotto.
Oooh, lovely ink and cuttlefish, graced by some ouzo foam that I could smell from metres away. Fabulous taste, worked so well in combination. Beautiful dish, excellent execution — the theme of this lunch. Wow! I was more than happy with this unexpected lunch!
I was full but was so relaxed I opted for a dessert — and it was quite a dessert…
It was a deconstructed baklava, and the smoke was just awesome here. You see the dry ice, but that’s more of a visual distraction as there was also quite a bit of smoking involved. Lovely flavours of a baklava in this odd deconstruction, but again lovely taste.
I enjoyed some ouzo and coffee before I took my leave and thanked the excellent staff. This was really an excellent lunch, and they more than deserve their Michelin star. Frankly perhaps there is some prejudice against a 100% Greek seafood restaurant on why they cannot reach over 1 star, but they deserve a 2nd one certainly.
Highly recommended, even if it’s not convenient to run to Piraeus — just do it!
Ακτή Κουμουνδούρου 52 [Akti Koumoundourou 52]
Πειραιάς, Ελλάδα [Piraeus, Greece]