My wife Jun and I recently went on a belated honeymoon/summer vacation to various countries in Europe where we got to eat out at many different restaurants from Athens to Dubrovnik to Nice. It was a wonderful trip that helped expand our culinary horizons. Since we were mostly visiting seaside areas of the European countries, our meals naturally focused on seafood. At our first stop, in Athens, we stopped by a restaurant in the port area of the city overlooking the harbor. Varoulko boasts a fine dining establishment (with one Michelin star) that is somewhat rare in Athens where traditional tavernas seem to still dominate the city’s dining scene. Our visit overall had some solid seafood dishes, although there weren’t a ton of pleasant surprises.
The menu at Varoulko consists of standard categories of starters, pastas and main dishes. Among the starters, king crabmeat with apple, lemon and basil with tangerine foam on top offered a nice citrusy feel that would suit well for whetting your appetite. Prawns on wine sauce, garlic and parsley were also aptly cooked with nice balance of flavor and texture. The best dish of the night, Jun and I agreed, clearly belonged to the cuttlefish risotto. Covered with the cuttlefish’s squid ink, the dish was quite sensational, with a hearty taste that was surprisingly not too heavy or greasy despite a risotto’s propensity to become so over time. While the kitchen could certainly add a bit more cuttlefish on the plate, we both savored every single scoop regardless and wondered whether any New York City restaurant has a risotto this good.
On the other hand, the main dish was slightly underwhelming. Varoulko’s main dishes are mostly daily catches with different styles. On our visit, grouper was available and we ordered the one with celeriac cream, chorizo and chocolate oil largely because Jun, ever a chocolate aficionado, was curious of what chocolate oil would taste like. Well, we barely felt a hint of chocolate in the dish, and I wished the grouper were cooked for a bit smoother texture. For dessert, we settled on what was called “strawberry tomato,” consisting of apples geranium with white chocolate mousse, cherry tomato and strawberry sorbet, which was serviceable but not particularly memorable despite its playful plating.
I didn’t have much trouble getting a reservation at Varoulko (the reservation desk was very responsive on emails), and the dining space is fairly spacious, so you are not likely to have an issue visiting on a last minute notice. The restaurant seems to have set aside a space specifically for non-Greek tourists which is where we got seated and got quickly crowded with a large group of Chinese tourists. There is an extensive selection of Greek wine selections with varying price ranges so definitely give yourself an opportunity to sample one of the whites from the country. The view of the harbor adds a bit of romantic element to the dining experience, although the weather on our visit was less than ideal with occasional showers. Varoulko is certainly not a ground-breaking dining destination in Greece you must visit, but if you are looking to have a meal on the seaside of Athens, it offers a viable option.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.75/10)
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: Akti Koumoundourou 52, Mikrolimano, Piraeus, Greece