A New Athenian Restaurant Has People Talking

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Tassos Pikounis co-founder and Marketing Director of House of Wine shares his thoughts on the new 5 chef Restaurant, Cookoovaya (a play on words as the name begins with cook and koukouvaya means owl in Greek hence their tag line of Wise Cuisine).  

Portions of Tassos’s article have been translated and possibly altered due to translation, for the full article in Greek please visit http://www.houseofwine.gr/how/club/tpik_20141203/

The greatly anticipated Cookoovaya opened on December 2, 2014 and we were there!  This is the collaboration of five famous Greek chefs,  Spiros and Vaggelis Liakos (of Base Grill and Travolta), Nikos Karathanos (with two Michelin star awards from Hytra),  Periklis Koskinas (previously chef at Alatsi and the  unforgettable creator at Milos) and Manos Zournatzis (previous chef and co owner of Cucina Povera).

5_chefs_cookoovaya

The interest of the public grew as the project and place of venue were announced.  It was obvious that something new was about to begin with the collaboration of these talented and artistic chefs.  Each one with their own expertise and vision decided to join efforts and create something very unique in Greece.   This would be a restaurant that would address a large crowd, be friendly, have logical prices with the standards that each chef has developed, and sharing a new kitchen that this time would be without international influence as seen in some of their past work.

Of course there were some concerns before the doors opened such as would they stay together with their different styles and how could five differing chefs create a unified menu considering that one was known for molecular gastronomy and others for their expertise on the grill?

Expectations were high which make for tough critics, but we were excited as we  entered the most talked about restaurant of the year on opening day.  The place is impressive, well lit, great design, noise reducing materials, and a wide open kitchen giving a stage to an almost theatrically performance of the five chefs and their assistants which definitely catches your attention.  

 cookoovaya_kitchen

We were escorted to our table by a very polite hostess and thereafter quickly attended to by the waiters.  They were courteous and friendly, and they informed us of the restaurant’s philosophy “Simple, Friendly, Comfortable … like your house”.   

We started with a decent Assyrtiko -Malagouzias blend house wine that was offered to us.  Spiros Liakos came by in his chef whites which the five chefs wear to say a friendly hello and talk with us.  

Spiros_Liakos_Pikounis

I have a lot of amateur experience on the grill and I have tried hundreds of kondosouvlia (grilled meat on a long skewer) but like the one that Spiro offered us  I’ve never had before.  It is a mouth watering combination of  lamb and pork with an unparalleled taste.  

greek_food_cookoovaya

As far as some of the other plates.., well we ordered 1/2 the dishes from the menu; mainly meat dishes because of the preferences of our group.  We wanted to try as much as we could.  We ordered cheese pie with handmade philo dough filled with mizithra cheese, fried mushrooms, rooster pastitsada with filled pasta, pork dish with sunny side up egg,  roasted chicken on the spit with a crepe filled with a variety of mushrooms and vegetables together with a bottle of Paliokalia 2012 wine, a wonderful modern xinomavro variety from the Dalamara vineyard.  

I’m not going to describe each dish as each one was exquisite.  These were all  real Greek dishes that brought back childhood memories reminding us of home cooked food and neighborhood eateries that are never forgotten.

The five chefs with their whites circulated between tables.  They were friendly and easily approachable, and we watched as they served with their own hands and explained as they presented them.  

cookoovaya_food

But you might tell me don’t I have any remarks to say.  Yes I have and it lies exactly in our field which is wine.  The wine list isn’t small but is missing significant wines and varieties.  Such vineyards as Skouras, Sigalas, and Limniona shouldn’t be missing from any wine list.  The fact that there is no sommelier lies in the concept of the restaurant which is based on the philosophy of simplicity.  However in an era of successful wine bars, this image is outdated and could be presented differently.  We can expect that the position of the  sommelier could change from an overly classic sommelier serving wine with one arm behind his back to a more friendly and simple advisor to the customer.  This can be achieved and we await for this to happen just as the kitchen and service has done.  We would be happy if we saw included in the team a renowned sommelier who would share the same vision as the 5 chefs.

The end result, I have a feeling that we just witnessed the birth of a new Greek cuisine; a cuisine that has a strong base in the Greek tradition but one that has evolved without betraying it.   If you ask me if I have ever tried dishes like this before I would answer without hesitation, yes.  But here is the difference, this cuisine has an overall combination of space, service, style and dishes which are the emergence of five of the most emblematic Greek chefs.

Congratulations to the five chefs, you achieved what you envisioned from day one.  Your big responsibility is to now continue it….

Tassos Pikounis

2 Comments

  1. Nelly

    December 11, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Do you have a website? Looked but cannot find. They should be on social media.

    • Hellenic

      December 12, 2014 at 9:36 am

      So far there is no website. However, although it is in Greek they do have a Facebook page (Cookoovaya).

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