Kuzina – Come for the Meatballs

Okay, so now we are in Athens. One of the cradles of civilization. Birthplace of modern medicine, theatre, architecture, and democracy.

I loved Greece. I would go back in an instant, and quite frankly, we have already discussed going back for our 5 year anniversary – definitely Santorini and maybe Crete.

But Athens…Athens is a 2 night stop at most. See the Acropolis, gawk at the Parthenon, maybe go to the museum, and get the hell out of Dodge.

It’s Paris without the shops that have been there since 1722. It’s London without the changing of the guards. It’s New York without the yellow taxicabs.

It’s a big city without the charm.

I am so sorry, Athens was just not for me. I think that if I was a major Greek history buff, it would be heaven – you can’t walk more than a minute without bumping into the ancient Agora, a statue that was built in 60BC, or an artifact that we would LOVE to have here in the USA.

But if, like me, you are kind of a one-site-fits-all gal…Athens ain’t the greatest part of Greece.

Sadly, the same goes for the food.

We stayed at The Grande Bretagne (an unbelievable hotel…more to come) and they recommended a restaurant which was described ans an upscale taverna. Some traditional Greek food, some fresh ingredients with Mediterranean influences, and a whole lot of style. Perfect!

The neighborhood…a little sketchy. I wasn’t scared that I would be mugged or anything, but expect to see a ton of graffiti, panhandlers, and more than a few wasted people as you walk to your destination. That doesn’t bother me, but it is surprising that such a well-known restaurant would be located in this neighborhood.

Kuzina is a beautiful restaurant with a gorgeous terrace, an airy indoor space, and lovely outdoor seating on a tree lined street. It reminds me of something that might be in Santa Monica – rustic but cool. The menu looked great, too.

20140506_202352 20140506_202358 Bread and olives

Very nice! The bread has a thick, floury crust and is warm and airy inside. It’s ideal with the almost sweet olive oil and the juicy, mild olives.  20140506_203126 Fattoush salad

On the surafce this sounds great – a light salad with spicy peppers, crispy bacon, and crispy pita in a light, lemony vinaigrette. However, this just didn’t work. The lettuce is in pieces that are far too big and make you feel like you are eating mouthfuls of leaves. The hot peppers aren’t very spicy and the roasted ones are almost slimy. The bacon is flaccid and far too fatty-and I love me some fatty bacon.  The worst part is that the dressing positively DRENCHED the salad – and not in that awesome blue cheese-drenched iceberg wedge way. It’s super acidic and renders everything soggy. The pita crisps were good, but a good crouton does not a great salad make.  20140506_203731 Keftedes with sumac, pita, and yogurt sauce

The highpoint not just of the night but of all of the meatballs of the trip. They are everything that meatballs want to be. Juicy, earthy, and soft but not mushy. The sumac is wonderfully bright and  – it perks up the meatballs without making them overtly sour or bitter. The pita is fluffy and chewy, and the yogurt provides a little creamy counterpart. Don’t even get me started on those tomatoes again. This is such a delicious dish that it’s almost wort the price of admission.

20140506_204912 Snapper in bouillabaisse broth

Very good, if not memorable. The fish is well cooked and the bouillabaisse is briny and deep with saffron and garlic. It’s something that I would eat again, but not something that I would actively seek.  20140506_204918 Liver and onions

I mean, I enjoy this stuff. The liver is ideally cooked, with a bit of pink inside and a crusty, browsed exterior. This ain’t yo mama’s chopped liver – it’s overtly organ-y, with a soft texture but a ton of strong, iron-rich taste.The onions are sweet and sour, cutting though the liver’s strong taste. The potatoes are creamy and sop up the winey, mineral rich juices. It’s really quite good.  20140506_205030 But, again…I could cook this at home. I enjoyed it but wouldn’t consider this a must get.

After our hit-it-out-of-the-park meals on the islands, this first dinner in Athens was a major disappointment. It was more expensive than most of the food we had eaten on Santorini and Mykonos, and not as delicious. The service was a little spotty, though if the food were better we might not have noticed. This is a place that I might frequent f I lived here, but I can’t say that I wold willingly come back.

And it was our best dinner in Athens. Luckily, lunch the next day was more up our alley.