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Giannis Baxevanis gives us the grand tour of his own Crete and cooks for us…

By piato in 
Both an emblematic figure and an influential pioneer of Greek culinary tradition, the renowned chef who stood up for Greek flavours back in the 90’s and 00’s welcomed us in Lasithi and offered a journey into the flavours and the beauty of his culinary homeland… he told us, among others:
‘’I would highly recommend PIATO restaurant, here in Agios Nikolaos, for traditional recipes with a twist’’.    

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“PIATO”, Agios Nikolaos CreteLong tradition in exquisite taste

By piato in 

We visited, saw, tasted and now we comment on the best restaurant in Agios Nikolaos and one of the best in Crete

 

Allow me to quote one of our most famous writers, Nikos Kazantzakis: “Crete doesn’t need householders, she needs madmen. Such madmen make Crete immortal”. This phrase kept coming to my mind when, about a month ago, I visited this blessed and unique island on a business trip. I was wondering whether I would run into householders or madmen… And then I remembered the words of Alexis Zorbas, Kazantzakis’ most popular literary hero: “Damn it boss, I like you too much not to say it. You’ve got everything except one thing: madness! A man needs a little madness… or else he never dares cut the rope and be free”.

Giorgos in fact has little to say. The menu and the flavours speak for themselves. We started with a refreshing salad “Mperdema” (salad leaves, marinated orange, dried figs, caramelised almonds and orange vinaigrette) and then moved on to the starters: The split peas from Feneos with fennel broth, smoked herring, pine nuts, sea fennel and caramelised onion were the best I’ve ever tried. I have never tasted split peas with such a smooth texture and spicy, yet sweet flavour.  

The crispy black cod croquettes with homemade mayonnaise, saffron from Kozani and lime, paved the way for the chicken “soutzoukakia” (traditional croquettes) with galeni cheese mousse, bell pepper sauce and fresh aromatic herbs. It is an excellent dish which could skyrocket with some extra salt or a more spicy touch.  

The first main course was rooster “pastitsada”: it was served in a nest of crispy cinnamon leaves with aromatic olive oil and aubergine mash in an ingenious combination that blew my mind away. One of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted.

The simmered (16 hours) pork pancetta with sweet potato cream and carob & soy icing was a true delicacy.   

I thought this journey into flavour had been concluded when I tasted the variety of chocolate with carob: carob flour cookie, chocolate mousse with carob syrup and caramel tuile. George, however, had other plans. Just before leaving he served us a glass of an aged wine distillate “Apostagma Oinou Palaiothen”. If you ever visit Agios Nikolaos and PIATO restaurant please do ask for a glass of it. You’ll see what I mean…    

 

 

A chef and his favourite restaurant

By piato in 

SVEN ELVERFELD

A CHEF WHO HAS BEEN AWARDED THREE STARS AT AQUA RESTAURANT, WOLFSBURG, GERMANY

“I see myself as a full-time creative craftsman. I have to be this way or else everything will be merely average”, says the awarded chef Sven Elverfeld. He began his career as a pastry chef in Essen and in the meantime he had already worked as a cook in Dubai and Kyoto. His favourite stop had always been Minos Beach Hotel in Crete. The same island where his favourite restaurant is. And has nothing to do with Haute Cuisine. It has to do with impeccable art. 

 

Piato Restaurant, Agios Nikolaos Crete: “This restaurant is literally sitting on the seashore. For me this area is one of the most beautiful areas of Crete. I’ve been visiting the area since mid ‘90s alone or with my family. I adore the gastronomy of the senses – especially the originality of the dishes served at Piato Restaurant in a warm and unpretentious way. Octopus, cuttlefish or squid with ten tentacles? It is quite arousing for the senses. Fried or in the oven? I leave everything to Anna, the cook. I love the way she enhances and “plays” with traditional dishes. She has a great sense and awareness of Crete’s gastronomic wealth, of its herbs and scents. I’ve spend many unforgettable evenings with my friends there. Do not miss shrimps “Saganaki” with tomato sauce, feta cheese and white bread to dip in. And when you ask for the bill you often hear: “Yeah, right. Later. Let’s have some more ouzo”. Another distinctive feature of Crete. My opinion: Five stars for hospitality‼”