When we arrived, it was mere moments after they opened. The hostess greeted us and showed us to the elevator, telling us that our table was waiting for us on the third floor terrace. Up we went to find a mostly-unoccupied terrace, which had an unbelievably perfect view of the beautifully-lit Acropolis. It was truly like being on a movie set.
Varoulko is known for its seafood, and when presented with the option of a tasting menu, the choice was clear. omegabeth and I had one of the two, and Lisa had the other. One of the most exciting parts of both menus was that the wine pairings were almost all Greek wines. Since one of the things I love about food is its connection to place, this made me especially happy. Also, they were delicious. Unfortunately, they weren't together enough to give us a list of what we had at the end, so I can't tell you anything about any of them, beyond the fact that they were tasty.
But the food! It was also tasty! The menu Beth and I had started with a salad of white beans, fresh anchovy and zucchini, in a dressing of olive oil and lemon. I'd never had fresh anchovy, and it was a far cry from the super-salty canned variety, though still recognizable. I'm not a big fan of beans, normally, but this was just fantastic.
Lisa's menu started with a fish soup with squid ink, a thick, creamy black soup that was rich and delicious.
Our second course, and probably my favorite, was fresh squid tossed in pesto over a bed of "french fries", which were actually more like tinily shredded potatoes, fried and crispy. The part of the squid we had here was the tentacles, rather than the body that I'm accustomed to having, and the combination of the tenderly chewy tentacles with the crispy crunchy potato shreds was really interesting.
Lisa's second course was sea bass carpaccio, if I remember right, and I didn't have a taste of it, so I have no idea how it was, other than the fact that she made happy noises about it.
The third course in our menu was, I thought, less successful. It was a moussaka of bay shrimp, and it was merely tasty, and not much to write about. I was okay with that, though, because the portions were quite large, and I was feeling fairly full, anyway. I have no recollection of what Lisa had for this course.
The fourth course of our menu was the least successful of all, being a local fish in a tomato sauce, with lentils. It was fine, but not great, and it didn't come close to comparing with Lisa's fish (maybe grouper?) in an egg-lemon sauce that was knee-knockingly good and completely melt-in-your-mouth. On one hand, I was deeply envious of her, but on the other, I really was stuffed, so it was a bit of a relief not to feel like I had to finish that course!
Dessert for both menus was a choice between ricotta cheesecake or berry soup with vanilla ice cream. We all opted for the soup, which was perfect: blackberries, raspberries and red currants, some blended into a soup and the rest whole, with a small scoop of fragrantly vanilla-y ice cream.
The service was friendly, approachable and attentive without hovering. The sommelier was slightly overworked, and on a couple of occasions, he rushed to our table moments after our food had arrived, quickly reviewed our wines, and then ran off again in a bit of a tizzy. But our waiter was excellent, and the maitre d' was charming and smooth without being obsequious.
We sat down a few minutes after 8:30 and left shortly before 1AM. Not too shabby!
If you like fish, you should, by all means, eat at Varoulko. And if you like spectacular views, you should be sure to dine there when you can get a seat on the terrace.
(omegabeth's review is here.)