Amazing Rhodes

Rhodes Island Greece tourist guide.


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The two basic types of restaurant are the estiatorio and the taverna. Distinctions are slight, though estiatoria (plural) are more commonly found in large towns and tend to have the more complicated, oven-baked casserole dishes termed mayirefta (literally, "cooked"). With their long hours, old- fashioned-tradesmen's clientele and tiny profit margins, estiatoria (sometimes known as inomayiria, "wine-and-cook-houses") are, alas, a vanishing breed. An estiatorio will generally feature a variety of mayirefta such as moussakas, macaroni pie, meat or game stews, stuffed tomatoes or peppers, the oily vegetable casseroles called ladhera, and oven-baked meat and fish. Usually you point at the desired steam trays to choose these dishes.

Batches are cooked in the morning and then left to stand, which is why mayirefta

food is often lukewarm. Greeks don't mind this (many actually believe that hot food is bad for you), and most such dishes are enhanced by being allowed to steep in their own juice. Desserts (epidhdrpia in formal > Greek) of the pudding-and-pie variety don't IC exist at estiatoria, though yoghurt is occasionally served. Fruit, however, is always available in season; watermelon o (often on the house), melon and grapes are d the summer standards. Autumn treats worth ^ asking after include kydhdni std foOrno, or Q milo psitd, baked quince or apple with q honey, cinnamon, or nut topping. Sometimes 5' you may be offered a complementary slice of sweet semolina halva (simigdhalisios halvas).

Tavernas and psistaries

Tavernas range from the glitzy and fashionable to rough-and-ready ones with seating under a reed canopy, behind a beach.

Really primitive ones have a very limited (often unwritten) menu, but the more elaborate will offer some of the main mayirefta dishes mentioned above, as well as standard taverna fare. This essentially means mezedhes (hors d'oeuvres) or orektika (appetizers) and tis oras (meat and fish, fried or grilled to order). Psistaries (grill- houses) serve spit-roasted lamb, pork or goat (generically termed soOvla or tis soijvlas), chicken or kokoretsi (grilled offal roulade). They will usually have a limited selection of mezedhes and salads (salates), but no mayirefta. In rural areas, psistaries are often called exohika kendra.

Since the idea of courses is foreign to Greek cuisine, starters, main dishes and salads often arrive together unless you request otherwise. The best strategy is to order a selection of mezedhes and salads to share, in local fashion. Waiters encourage you to take horiatiki salata - the so-called Greek salad, including feta cheese - because it is usually the most expensive. If you only want tomato and cucumber, ask for angourodomata. Lahano-kardto (cabbage- carrot) and maroijli (lettuce) are the typical winter and spring salads respectively.

The most common mezedhes are tzatziki (yoghurt, garlic and cucumber dip), melitzanosalata (aubergine/eggplant dip), fried ?

courgette/zucchini or aubergine/eggplant slices, yigandes (white haricot beans in vinaigrette or hot tomato sauce), tyropitakia or spanakdpites (small cheese and spinach pies), tyrokafteri (spicy cheese dip), revythdkeftedhes or pittaroijdhia (chickpea patties similar to falafel), octopus salad, ambelofasola (late summer runner beans) and mavromatika (black-eyed peas). Greeks are very fond of anything pickled in brine or vinegar, and some of the more "ethnic" tavernas will offer such marinated delicacies as tsitsirava (terebinth shoots, Sporadhes); kapari (wild caper greens; south Dodecanese) or kritamo (rock samphire), the latter mentioned in King Lear and offered on most of the east Aegean islands. A vitamin- and mineral-rich succulent growing by the sea, it's harvested in June or July and served pickled with fish, or (like kapari or tstsirava) to jazz up salads.

Among meats, souvlaki and chops are reliable choices, often locally produced. In both cases, pork is usually better and cheaper than veal, especially as pansetta (spare ribs). The best souvlaki, not always available, is lamb; more commonly encountered are rib chops called paidhakia (sold by the kilo or by the portion), while roast lamb {arnf psitd) is considered estiatdrio fare. Keftedhes (breadcrumbed meatballs), biftekia (similar, but meatier) and the spicy, coarse- grain sausages called loukanika are cheap and good. Chicken is widely available but typically battery-farmed in Ipiros or on Evvia. Other dishes worth trying are stewed goat (gidha vrastf) or baked goat (katsiki std foOrno) - goat in general is a wonderfully healthy meat, typically free-range and undosed with antibiotics or hormones.

Fish and seafood

Seaside psarotavernes offer fish, reckoned by many to be a quintessential part of a Greek holiday experience. For novices, however, ordering can be fraught with peril.

Given these considerations, it's best to set your sights on humbler, seasonally migrating or perennially local species. The cheapest consistently available fish are gdpes (bogue), and maridhes (picarel), the latter eaten head and all. In the Dodecanese, yermands (same as Australian leatherback) is a good frying fish which appears in spring; a more widespread, inexpensive May-June treat is fresh, grilled or fried bakaliaros (hake), the classic UK fish-and-chip shop species. Gavros (anchovy), atherina (sand smelts) and sardhelles (sardines) are late-summer fixtures, at their best in the northeast Aegean. In the north and east Aegean, pandelis or sykids (covina) appears in early summer, highly rated since it's a rock-dweller, not a bottom feeder- and therefore a bit pricier. Kolids (mackerel) is excellent either grilled or baked in sauce. Especially in autumn you may find psard- soupa (fish soup) or kakavia (bouillabaisse).

Less esteemed species tend to cost €20-38 per kilo; choicer varieties of fish, such as red mullet, tsipoOra (gilt-head bream), sea- bass or fangri (common bream), will be expensive if wild - €44-60 per kilo, depending on what the local market will bear. If the price seems too good to be true, it's almost certainly farmed. Prices are usually quoted by the kilo (less often by the portion); standard procedure is to go to the glass cooler and pick your specimen, then have it weighed (uncleaned) in your presence. Overcharging, especially where a printed menu is absent, is not uncommon; have weight and price confirmed orally or on a slip of paper at the scales.

Cheaper seafood (thalassina), such as fried baby squid (usually frozen) and octopus, is a summer staple of most seaside tavernas, and often mussels, cockles and small prawns will be offered at reasonable sums. Keep an eye out for freshness and season; kydhdnia and a few other species must in fact be eaten alive for safety. The miniature "Symi" shrimps which are also caught around Rhodes, Halki and Kastellorizo would anywhere else just be used for bait, but here are devoured avidly; when less than a day old, they're distinctly sweet-flavoured.

As typical species have become overfished, unusual seafoods, formerly the province of the poor, are figuring more regularly on menus. Ray or skate (variously known as platy, selahi, trigona or vatos) can be fried or steamed and served with skord- halia (garlic dip), and are even dried for decoration. Sea urchins (ahinf) are also a humble (but increasingly scarce) favourite, being split and emptied for the sake of their (reputedly aphrodisiac) roe, eaten raw. Special shears are sold for opening them if you don't fancy a hand full of spines.

Another peculiar delicacy, frequently available on Rhodes, Kalymnos and several nearby islands, are fouskes ("blisters"). These marine invertebrates (figue de mer in French) live on rocks at depths of 30-40m, and are gathered by sponge-divers for extra income. They're unprepossessing in the extreme - resembling hairy turds - but slice them lengthwise and your opinion will change instantly as you scoop out the liquor and savour the orange-and-yellow innards, which taste much like oysters and cost about the same. Otherwise they're commonly pickled - as fouskdalo - in beer- bottles of their own fluids, which tends to overpower their delicate intrinsic taste. The meaty bit of the pinna-shell mollusc - spinialo or spinioalo - is similarly harvested, pickled and served as an ouzomezes.