The Athenian House has earned some impressive accolades in its first season. It soared to the no. 1 ranking on Tripadvisor; its signature dish, lamb chop moussaka with white aubergine, was named the best dish of 2016 in Santorini by Greek food critics; and foodies such as The Last Bite Sydney proclaimed it their favourite restaurant in the world. Led by the respected executive chef Dimitris Skarmoutsos, a judge on MasterChef Greece, the restaurant promises to serve up “creative new Greek cooking” using regional ingredients.
I was thoroughly intrigued and, admittedly, a little worried that the restaurant was going to have difficulty living up to its stellar reputation. But really, I need not worry. The Athenian House had me at the amuse bouche.
The amuse bouche was a cucumber soup topped with pomegranite, a bowl of food that managed to be delicate and packed with flavour at the same time. It was the sort of confident cooking that upon tasting the first spoonful of soup, I knew that the rest of the meal was sure to be a culinary delight.
Then I had the slow-cooked octopus and black lentils, which melted in my mouth – not something you can usually say about octopus. This was followed by my second favourite course of the evening, the smoked Santorini fava, a Greek speciality made of yellow split peas and shouldn’t be mistaken for fava beans.
The fava was a silky puree and the whole jar showcased the perfect ying-yang theme of the Athenian House cooking: contrasting flavours and textures are married together to perfection. The blend of the smokiness mixed with the sweetness of the caramelised onions and the saltiness and kick from the spicy sausage was outstanding. If it was possible to lick the jar clean then I would have done so. It was that good.
First courses out of the way and I am grinning ear to ear. Eating food of this calibre makes my spirit soar.
The main courses were to die for. I really can’t rave about them enough. The lamb chop moussaka, the house’s prize-winning dish, was a delight. The lamb chop was beautifully cooked to our order (medium rare) and the moussaka was lovely and delicate, thanks to the mellowness of the white aubergine. But the star dish of the night for me was the lobster and beetroot risotto. The lobster was succulent and subtly sweet, highlighting its quality and freshness. The beetroot added a gorgeous depth to the classic risotto – and a burst of colour to the presentation. Crispy peas, crunchy hazelnuts and cashew nuts provided contrasting texture. It was exceptional. Here I had local ingredients rich in flavour deftly handled. Cooking with flair.
The main courses were so ravishing that I devoured them all, and I was full by the time desserts came rolling out. I had to try The Athenian House special, a rethinking of the traditional baklava, with peanut butter cream and salty caramel sauce, which was heavenly. So much goodness on a plate. The trio of flavoured custard was a lovely, light ending to a delightful meal.
The Athenian House takes its wine seriously, with its own oenologist, a wine specialist, selecting its offering. Greek wines take pride of place on the menu, and this was what I drank during the course of my dinner. I became a firm fan of Santorini whites during my trip, and the Argyros Estate was delicious. Of note was the Vinsanto Santo Wines 2008, a Santorini dessert wine that I adored.
Attentive, unobtrusive and personable, the staff at The Athenian House took wonderful care of its guests. Small things like how my waitress was quick to offer me a blanket after the sun set, in case I was chilly, and how my glasses were always topped up. Owner Konstantinos stopped by every table for a chat, and it was clear to all how much pride he had in the restaurant. I always appreciate it when owners and managers are working on the floor. I believe it gives them a feel for how a business really is and what their customers are saying. On a simplest level, it shows that they care.
The Travel Nova’s verdict
If you only eat at one restaurant in Santorini, make it this one. Your taste buds will thank you. I cannot rave about the food here enough. It went right up there as one of my all-time favourite meals.
Have you eaten there? What did you think?
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The Athenian House (website)
*This post was sponsored by The Athenian House. The views expressed are my own.