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Worth a flight to Athens?

I love greek food. I completely and utterly adore the stuff. I try to cook as much greek food in my own kitchen, but for various reasons the cook in my favourite taverna in Athens still surpasses my feeble attempts. That's why at least once a year I make a little trip to Athens to stuff myself full with Mezedes (greek starters) and lovely chargrilled meats.

To Koutouki, a taverna located near Athens' most exclusive suburbs Ekali and Kifissia satisfies exactly the need for these weird cravings: for over twenty years run by the same family, the standards of cooking maintained in this place is astonishing and its famous starters are legendary throughout the Pendeli mountains. It doesn't look much from the outside: a rather ramshackle building on one of Greece's busiest streets, Kifissia Avenue, it host ca 100 diners and is open all day. Normally you' ll find a couple of greek gentlemen smoking and enjoying their coffee on the table on the right of the entrance who will give you a big hello and before you walk down the stairs to the downstairs dining area with it's high ceiling and good ventilation.

After a cordial greeting, you'll be handed a little leaflet with ca 25 starters, which you then can just mark and hand back to your waiter. In a couple of minutes your table will bend under the different pots and plates that come out of the kitchen, filled with the most amazing bits and bobs.

It's futile to single out any dishes, but I would suggest that you should be literate in greek and should know your Horta from your Saganaki, otherwise you might miss out on some of the wonderful dishes (by just ordering safe stuff like salad and Tzatziki.

I've so far never been let down by any of the different specialties, the prices are moderate and the wines are excellent. The only problem is getting up after dinner.

Taverna TO KOUTOUKI, Leo. Kifissias 308 & Kritis, Kifissia, Tel: 210-808-0780

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