Athens: old school koutouki tavern at Palia Istoria
There are not too many restaurants, or better yet taverns, hidden in the lower ground floor of some homey neighbourhood like Holargos. Palia Istoria started in 1973 in a more central location before the three Tsourounakis brothers inherited the business from their uncle and moved the joint to number 58 of 17th November street making it an instant hit.
Invited by another 3 chaps last week, I visited Palia Istoria in an urge to try something different and get away from all the glam other restaurants offer. Getting to the address was very easy but spotting the lower ground floor entrance was a bit harder. As we descended the few steps to the tavern we were immediately welcomed by various decorations and artefacts on the walls, the wine barrels at the very back and even a dwell in the middle of the room!
Music was playing low with some traditional old Greek rebetika songs and the three Tsourounakis brothers were tending to patrons and the grill in a religious manner. The menu, which was more than reasonably priced, had every meze you'd wish for in such a place. Top of the list: gardoumpa!
The appetizers started coming plenty with patatou, a medley of grilled cheese over potatoes, being the most delicious one. Salads were ok, nothing spectacular, but the free flow wine and raki were making up for it. As for the main courses: divine.
The waiter recommended the dish of the day: Yioulbasi, tender pork meat with peppers and just a tad of cheese cooked in the oven inside wafer thin paper. The rooster on red wine sauce was also nicely made and something on the lighter end of the scale! And finally, the pork chop cooked with sun-dried tomato and honey was also exquisite.
Oh, and yes, the place does offer other stuff from the grill like beef patties, chicken skewers and tenderloin but we didn't bother. We were happy with all the cooked dishes and ready to dig in to the handmade cheesecake, with yoghurt instead of cream cheese, and topped with sour cherries!
On Thursdays they also feature some live music if you're really into it. But make sure you get a reservation!