Have you ever fell for something “hook, line and sinker” and then afterwards thought, ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ C’mon, be honest.
On a recent trip to Greece, a gregarious taxi driver, George, who we luckily just happened upon, offered to take the four of us to the best restaurant he knew the following night, and if we didn’t like it, we didn’t have to pay for the taxi ride home! Not a bad deal, all in all. We didn’t have a restaurant in mind for the next evening, and he seemed so enthusiastic about it. It was about a 20 minute drive to Piraeus, the port town just outside of Athens to Captain John’s.
We arrived at the location and found an empty restaurant. Mind you, we’re Americans who eat earlier than most Europeans, but we had still gone later in the evening, and expected a relatively full house on a weekend night.
They seated us at a table next to the windows that they opened completely for us, giving the impression that we were outdoors, sitting right at the water’s edge. Boats were in the surrounding waters, beautifully lit up in their anchored state. A cool September breeze filled the room. Scruffy looking cats gathered outside, waiting hopefully for a fishy morsel to be tossed their way.
Seated at the table, our waiter arrived and introduced himself. Dimitrius, an energetic, charming gentleman, probably older than me, who exuded friendliness and warmth. He began by asking us what we liked and making suggestions as to what we should order. ‘How about a little of this, I’ll bring you some of that, sound good? And what about wine?’ He recommended a particular bottle off the menu as well as the Sea Bass. It all sounded great and we readily agreed upon all his recommendations. Away he went, leaving us excited about the dishes coming our way shortly!
Moments later, we realized we never even looked at the menu and didn’t have a clue what the prices were, or what to expect! How could we have been so mesmerized by his suggestions, his charisma, his passion? Next time he came by, we asked what we were in for. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine!” he told us.
Starters began arriving. The first was a plate of octopus, in a light lemon and olive oil dressing. I’d never had octopus before and was a bit leery. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender, not rubbery at all as I had expected and tasted somewhat of chicken to me, only far better. Next: fried calamari with a spicy dipping sauce, followed by crispy fried whole shrimp and an amazing Greek salad, all accompanied by crusty bread, perfect for dipping in all the sauces! I willingly joined the “clean plate” club!
Wondering where our Sea Bass was being cooked, Dimitri took us across the street to the kitchen. Just like hot dogs cooking over the campfire, the whole fish was sandwiched in a metal grate that the chef could flip from one side to the other over the heat. When perfectly done, it was wheeled on a cart to our table where Dimitri filleted the fish for us with expert precision. Seasoned to perfection, I’ve never eaten so much sea bass in my life!
Certain we couldn’t eat another bite, we were once again tempted us to share a slice of hot chocolate pie and orange pie with ice cream. How can you pass up chocolate pie, I thought, when really it was the orange pie, both more like cake, that was fabulous! Light and tasty, with just a hint of orange. Rounding out the night, we were presented with Greek coffee (much like famous Turkish coffee) and a complimentary round of Mastixa, which I had never heard of: a light, sweet after-dinner drink, and a wonderful way to end the evening.
Best of all was when he presented the bill. I couldn’t read a word of it, except the euro amount at the bottom: 217 euros! Such a fabulous meal for the four of us, that we could literally never reproduce anywhere else in the world! Dimitri was right: all was fine! Actually, more than fine. It was one of the best dinners of our entire ten-day Greek trip!
One note: whole fish in Greece (as well as other areas) is sold by kilo weight. We had one fish for four of us, so we couldn’t really know the price before they weighed the fish; one reason he couldn’t tell us exactly what the bill was going to be.
Find Captain John’s: 16 Alexandrou Koumoundourou Street. 185 33 Microlimano Piraeus, Greece. www.captainjohns.gr
Maybe it’s best to just tell the cab where to go. It should cost about 15 Euros from Athens.