While I was very sad to leave Kea, I was happy that I had one last night in Athens. Aglaia and Costas had recommended a wonderful boutique hotel in the chic and cultural neighborhood of Kolanaki called The Periscope Hotel. It’s a member of the Yes! Hotels group, which stands for “Y”oung “E”nthusiastic “S”eductive. Each of their boutique hotels prides themselves on being creative but comfortable spaces with excellent customer service. Aglaia said that the restaurant at the Periscope, π Box Eatery, was excellent and that the chef was doing very interesting things with the menu. So I was very excited to stay there and try out this restaurant. It did not disappoint!
The hotel doesn’t look like much from the outside and the lobby is really tiny, but don’t let that dissuade you! The rooms are spacious and light, even with the dark submarine gray built-in closet and workspace. There are floor to ceiling windows and lots of natural light that can be blocked out by the push of a button lowering the automatic shades. Even the bathroom is quite large with a full sized shower and a full sized shower curtain, an uncommon sight in Europe. (I’ll never understand how half curtains or half glass walls are considered effective; I always end up soaking the entire bathroom and using my extra towels to mop up the water. I think full sized shower curtains would be a huge seller!) The plentiful and pleasantly scented bath amenities were made by a company called Korres Natural Products, a Greek company that focuses on homeopathic remedies, organic and natural products. There was the wonderful added touch of bath robes and pairs of nice flip flops for both him and her (my oldest daughter quickly absconded with mine as I unpacked and I remarked that I should have taken both pairs home! Oh well!)
In keeping with the submarine theme, there are plenty of gray walls and steel accents throughout the hotel. For added fun, there is a video monitor in each hallway linked to an actual periscope on the hotel’s roof offering guests various vista views of Athens.
But I wasn’t there just for the fabulous room and the submarine themed decor. I was really there for the food!
The award winning and renowned Executive Chef, Christoforos Peskias, was born in Cyprus and studied business administration at Boston University. While he was a student, cooking became a passion for him and when he returned to Greece he worked as a chef at the Dash Restaurant in Kifisia. In 1992, he came back to the states to study alongside the famous chefs, Charlie Trotter and Jackie Pluton. For the next six years he worked in several kitchens, including Balthazar. But even more impressively, he returned to Europe and worked under such notables as Ferran Adria, Mark Menaux and Joel Robuchon. Influences of each can be seen in his menus today. From 2003-2008 he took over the kitchen at the now closed 48 Restaurant and garnered it a place on Restaurant magazine’s Top 100 list for both 2007 and 2008. In 2010 he opened the first Π box, in Kifisia, and recently, a second, smaller version at the Periscope Hotel where I would dine.
I was thrilled that my new friends from Maine who had also spent the week on Kea wanted to come to dinner with me that night at the hotel’s restaurant. It was so nice to have such great company on my last night in Greece!
When we arrived at 9pm there was only one other table dining. We were very early by Greek standards! But the restaurant soon filled and the room was buzzing.
Our first server was not very familiar with the wine list and deferred our tasting questions to her manager, who found us the perfect crisp and fruity white wine to accompany our meal at a reasonable price as well.
The eclectic menu had several fun titles for several of the dishes. We ordered three appetizers to share. The first, “pan fried Ladotyri cheese with lemon marmalade from giam” was delicious! Ladotyri cheese is made from sheep’s milk or goat’s milk or a combination of the two. It’s a hard salty cheese that is stored and aged in olive oil. On it’s own, it has a very strong flavor but this melted version had a crispy crust of cheese with a gooey melted center and was a perfect balance of tart and sweet, made possible by the lemon giam (aka jam). It doesn’t look beautiful but it tasted amazing. I loved it!
The next dish was entitled “street food of a different kind”. This dish is a take on Athens’s most popular hot dog cart at Mavili Square’s fare. Think a kraut dog, upped ten notches. This version is a mustard laced, slightly spicy sausage served with a savory stewed cabbage and a fried egg all together in one cast iron pan. We devoured it!
The third dish was calamari in a deep red zesty sauce.
Then they brought us a few more appetizers to taste while we were waiting, a fresh tomato pizza bread and an Asian inspired cold chicken, rice noodle bowl. Both were quite good and had excellent flavors, but the fact that the chicken rice noodle bowl was actually a cold dish was a bit of a surprise.
By the time our main course arrived we were rather full! One dish that was ordered was a “hamburger with three sauces”, a large American style burger served with three different sauces, each ranging in spice level. Two of us ordered the “Tandoori chicken with mashed potatoes”. I thought my chicken was a bit spongy to the touch and went to send it back for more cooking only to be told that it could not be cooked further. This was a bit shocking to me but the manager returned and assured me that it had been cooked thoroughly for several hours at a low temperature. Ah! Sous vide! Now it all made sense. The light bulb went off in my head. You see, restaurants in NYC are not allowed to use this method for fear of bacteria, so the only sous vide you can try is at home or in other cities and I must admit, I have not tried very many dishes prepared in this method. While not a visually appealing dish, this tender, juicy piece of chicken was coated in a tangy tandoori marinade and sat atop a fragrant and very flavorful yogurt and dill sauce which also served as the “gravy” for the mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, I was too full to eat the entire thing and had to leave a large portion left over.
Feeling quite full and satiated, all of us agreed that we would bypass dessert and head out for a quick evening stroll around the neighborhood. The bill for dinner was very reasonable for the three of us with a bottle of wine. We found out that the menu changes daily so if you go, your menu may differ from ours. But if you see these dishes, be sure to try them! You will be happy you did!
We then said our goodbyes and I retreated to my room for the evening and slept soundly through the night. The bed, while very firm, was incredibly comfortable, reminding me of memory foam and the pillows were soft but plump and offered a good amount of support. I had a great night’s sleep!
In the morning, I was delighted to try the restaurant’s breakfast buffet that was included in the room rate. There was a large selection of cheeses and charcuteries, fresh fruit, cereals, grains and yogurts. There were also several loaves of homemade breads that you could slice yourself and a wide assortment of pastries, including muffins, croissants and bite sized baklavas. If a guest desired eggs or omelets, they could make a request and it would be made to order. From fresh juices to strong coffees and lots of varieties of foods, there was nothing that hadn’t been thought of. It was a good, solid breakfast to start the day.
Unfortunately, my stay at the Periscope Hotel was short as I was heading to the airport to return home that day, so a shower and some packing was all that was left for me to do But I vowed to return, and I would certainly stay at the Periscope Hotel again or recommend it to anyone looking for a reasonably priced hotel in a great neighborhood.
With the arrival of my new friend and driver, Loukas, to take me to the airport, my Greek adventure was sadly at its official end. I had the most amazing time there and am plotting how to return and next time, bring the family.