For better or for worse, upmarket restaurants in Greece mostly serve Real Greek food. If Creative Greek restaurants in Greece offering creative cuisine are to serve moussaka, then this has to be either in the shape of a minced meat and eggplant liquid poured into a martini glass or mixed with liquid nitrogen and morphed into ice cream. Greek chefs, for better or for worse, have fallen prey to the charms of molecular cuisine. New Greek cuisine is the inevitable fashion in Greece as nueva cocina has been in Spain and new Nordic cuisine in Denmark. An endless array of young Greek chefs who apply the techniques of molecular cuisine onto traditional recipes straight from their grandmothers’ recipe books flowed out of the kitchens of an older generation of New Greek cuisine chefs. Contemporary Greek cooking has taken the standard Greek recipes and fused them with exotic ingredients, turned them inside out, deconstructed them, foamed them, freeze dried them and spherified them, giving a definitely new form of Real Greek food.
In addition to Creative Greek cuisine restaurants, there has also been an explosion of Modern Greek restaurants in Greece. First of all, they are bistro-like restaurants, where young chefs create their own revolution by serving Greek food in a more recognizable form. There, moussaka is just moussaka, but the difference between these “bistros” and traditional Greek taverns is that in the former there is greater gastronomic sensitivity. Ingredients from the rich terroir of Greece are well sourced and there is precision in cooking. As for the wine, instead of the ubiquitous retsina of the past, superb barrique wines from Santorini, Nemea or Amynteo are served in proper glasses.
It is also worth mentioning that a great number of “neotaverns” have appeared in recent years, especially in Athens. These “modern Greek restaurants” not only try to recreate the atmosphere of the old taverns (whose number has alas been waning) in an “authentic manner” but also attempt to reproduce the flavour and the aroma of tavern food, ouzo and retsina included.
The most recent trend in modern Greek restaurants is their welcome discovery of local cuisine. People in the cities are going back to their roots by rediscovering the glorious gastronomy of Crete, Chios, Lemnos and the Peloponnese, a multifaceted cuisine that is based on local ingredients and a mix of recipes that reflects the turbulent history of Greece.
Whether it is in taverns or bistros, in local or “New Greek cuisine” restaurants, Greeks are becoming more conscious of their gastronomic heritage and this has created a food culture which the tourists may find more appealing than eating hummus in Plaka.