The Wonder of Greek Cuisine in Jakarta

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TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – A restaurant owner named Pentefragkas Panagiotis, or Panos, is known to be very friendly to his customers in the Greek cuisine restaurant named El Greco at Setiabudi One Mall, South Jakarta. Panos did not mind explaining the menus to the visitors as he realizes that Greek cuisines may not be too popular in Indonesia.

“I think visitors need to know that the ingredients used here are all fresh, because that’s the way we do it in Greece,” said the man who knows a bit of Indonesian language.

Panos claimed that the restaurant, which was opened since April last year, is the provider of authentic Greek cuisines. To support the concept, Panos designed his restaurant similar to that exists in his country. He wants everyone who stopped by El Greco to feel the atmosphere of Santorini Beach, the most famous tourism spot in Greece. He also put imitation of trees in the middle of the restaurant to bring in the open air ambience. The color of blue and white dominated the rooms in the restaurant, inspired by the flag of Greece.

“People in Greece, especially who live in the north, loves to eat in the open air,” he said.

To maintain the authenticity of his menus, Panos did not make too much change on the composition of the ingredients. Only a slight modification is done to adjust the food with Indonesian taste, such as replacing the pork with chickens and offering chili sauce.

That night, we ordered Kotosalata (Rp47,000), Dakos (Rp33,000), and Pites (Rp17,000) as the appetizers. Kotasalata consisted of chicken and lettuce presented in a jumbo bowl. Instead of mayonnaise, the dish was poured with olive oil and kastoria sauce, a distinctive sauce of the northern part of Greece. The combinations gave sour yet slightly hot and fresh sensation on the tongue that different from regular taste of lettuce which often found in restaurants in Indonesia.

Pites suited my taste bud more that the Kotosalata. Pites was a thin grain bread which was fried to crisp. In Greece local tradition, Pites was poured with chili powder and presented together with Melitzana (Rp32,000), a sauce made of eggplants, onions, garlic, petercelli slices, and olive oil. However, Panos added a small plate of tomato sauce and mayonaise to the dish.

“I know that Indonesian likes spicy food, so we provide additional sauces,” said Panos. The pites was very filling and I recommend you to eat it before the main course. If you happen to arrive at El Greco before lunch time, you must try the Dakos. Dakos was made of crunchy roasted bread. In Greece, Dakos usually eaten at breakfast time.

Panos recommended Gemista (Rp60,000), Bifteki (Rp37,000), and Pyta Gyros (Rp32,000). Gemista appeared to be the sexiest among the three. The dish was presented on a wide plate with three roasted tomatoes filled with rice and a stack of thick potato fries poured with olive oil. Warm Gemista spread a tempting aroma. The complex cooking method to make Gemista resulted in a worthy food. When Gemista tomatoes were sliced, we would find tender seasoned rice that melted in our mouth. It was a bit oily but did not make my throat itchy. By the time I finished the Gemista tomatoes, my stomach was already full to eat the fries.

The Pyta Gyros could be an alternative dish if you prefer a more moderately menu. The typical of Mediterranean cuisines could be found in the dish that looked like kebab or Mexico’s burritos at a glance. Pita bread was wrapped around roasted chicken, tomatoes, garlic, and fries. Tzatziki sauce which is made of yoghurt and minced cucumber were mixed in the dish. There was no particular taste that prominently came out of the Pyta Gyros.

For the drink, Greek Coffee Single (Rp20,000) is a must try. The El Greco’s signature coffee was brewed on sand inside a special machine that was brought from Greece. The unique coffee making resulted in unique aroma that makes us feel like we are in Santorini.

ISMA SAVITRI (tempo.co)