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Landing a Seafood Feast, Greek Style
Enjoying the bounty of the seas that wash against Greek shores can be a fishy business. The waters have been over-fished for decades and much "Greek" fish served today is often frozen from other waters. Take heart, though.You can still feast on delicious fish in Greece—it's just a question of what you order, and where.
Patrons of fish restaurants are usually greeted with iced displays of the catch of the day. Proprietors will often spout some mumbo-jumbo about the fish being caught only an hour earlier—allow the shills some poetic license and go for the operative word here, fresco, fresh, as opposed to kat, frozen.
The fish you choose will be sold by the portion, merida, and priced by the kilo. Expect to pay at least EUR 50 a kilo for such popular fish as xifia, swordfish; lavraki, sea bass; tsipoura, sea bream; and barbounia, red mullet.
Yes, fish is expensive in Greece, but remember, that price is per kilo, and the portion you order may well weigh, and cost, less.
A wonderful place to cast your line for local color, along with getting a good look at the denizens of the Greek seas, is the Fish Market in the Athens Central Market at Athinas and Evripidou Streets, between Monastiraki and Omonia squares.
Vociferous vendors hose down iced piles of scales, shells, and tentacles while reeling in customers.
Can't accommodate a red mullet in your hotel room? Not to worry.
Yours truly, can satisfy the appetite this most Athenian of institutions will no doubt trigger in one of the city's many fine fish restaurants.
What's What in the Sea
These creatures make an appearance on many Greek menus, often as appetizers, mezedes, and you usually can't go wrong ordering any of them, in any variation.
Garides, shrimp, are often served deliciously as saganaki, baked with fresh tomatoes and feta cheese and brought to the table sizzling.
Sardelle, sardines, are grilled, fried, or eaten raw. Papalina are small sardines, and atherina are very small sardines.
Gavros, anchovies, are almost always fried and served with lemon and vinegar.
Kalamari, squid, are often fried. A far more satisfying treat is whole kalamari, grilled or stuffed with rice and herbs and baked. A tasty relative is the soupia, cuttlefish, usually baked in tomato sauce.
Htapodi, octopus, is grilled, marinated in vinegar and oil, or stewed with tomatoes and onions.
Media, mussels, are usually steamed, and are often taken out of their shells and served in risotto or salads.
Old Time Favorites
In addition to fresh fish, keep an eye out for these old standards. Taramasalata, fish roe salad, is a tasty spread, a poor man's caviar made from carp eggs, blended with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic.
Kakavia andpsarosoupa are variations of fish soup, usually made from pieces of whatever fish is available, simmered in broth with vegetables, and always embellished with the special flourishes of the individual cook.
Cod, bakaliaro, is often served as bakaliaro skordalia, dipped in batter and deep fried.
Where to Cast Your Line for a Seafood Meal
These Athens restaurants stake their reputations on serving the freshest fish and seafood.
Hytra. This fashionable bistro is famed for its fish soup garnished with sea urchin.
I Taverna tou Psarra. Brigitte Bardot and Laurence Olivier have dined here, perhaps on their celebrated octopus.
Oriozontes. Atop Mt. Lycabettus, this is tops in taste, especially their sea bream with silver beet.
Sardelles. Sardines ("sardelles") are the house specialty here, especially those "hot and spicy" in rock salt.
Thalatta. The menu here is pulled daily from the Aegean.
Trata O Stelios. The fish soup here is so good it might raise the dead.
To Varoulko. Octopus, crayfish, and other denizens of the deep find their way into magnificent creations, served with flair.
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