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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 10 June 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 10 JUNE 2017 15 FOOD FOR THOUGHT in Australia. I ate at the Press Club and Gazi restaurants in Melbourne. The Press Club's food is very interesting and tasty and some of the dishes at Gazi are the work of a genius. The soft shell crab souvlaki is absolutely amazing. I would never have thought of that one," Xenakis says clearly impressed by the innovation. There are suggestions that Xenakis is on the verge of a Michelin star but this prestigious honour is not the only motivation for him in the kitchen. "It is important for the restaurant and a chef to receive a Michelin star and other awards, however the biggest recognition of all is the feedback from the people that eat at my restaurant. "With the economic crisis in Greece I believe that Michelin may not be focusing as much on a city like Athens as they think people may not be able to afford this style of dining," he laments. The Aleria restaurant premises are easily recognisable; a beacon of historical elegance surrounded by 1960s/70s concrete apartments, in the up and coming Athens inner city suburb of Metaxourgeio. The neoclassical building, built in 1895, was discovered abandoned 15 years ago and has since been renovated with tasteful modern decor. Aleria owner Nikiforos Kehayiadakis suggests the building and food are in perfect harmony with each other: a traditional base with a modern finish. Prices are at the modest end for a fine dining restaurant and Xenakis explains the thinking behind it. "Our customers are probably split half and half between tourists and locals. "We know a lot of travellers would pay more for this food but we want Athenians to be able to eat here as well." Xenakis is adamant that the Athens food scene is experiencing an all-time high at present. "A lot of chefs here are working very hard with a lot of passion and experimenting with new raw ingredients to create different meals. We have been through a stage of focussing on molecular gastronomy to now serving quality innovative dishes," he said. In a perfect world, Xenakis would like to grow his restaurant produce in his own garden. Not an easy proposition in downtown Athens. "I would like to see fine dining restaurants all over Greece. Not just in the big cities and main islands. In all the small villages. That is my dream." Xenakis doesn't have a favourite dish on his menu, he suggests my question is like asking a parent who their favourite child is. When pressed he nominates the pastistsio made with oxtail; a traditional Greek dish that has become a perennial customer and staff favourite. From personal experience I can tell you it deserves all the accolades. Xenakis, who consults for a number of other restaurants, didn't ever return to study business management. His passion for Greek food is all encompassing. "Have you tried the feta and watermelon yet? You must try it," urges the once food-shy chef. Aleria Restaurant, Megalou Alexandrou 57, Metaxourgeio Athens. Open Monday to Saturday 7.30-10.30 pm.
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