Monday, April 12, 2010

The Moussaka of Moussakas: Taverna Louizidis - Voulagmeni (Athens), GR

Aunt Mary flung open the doors, waived her hand at the first staff member (who promptly seated us), threw down her purse on the table, rolled up her sleeves and marched toward the back of the restaurant.

"Where are you going?" I asked her in my best Greek, trying not draw weird looks from the other Sunday taverna goers with my heavy Californian accent. They were already staring at us. We were already making a scene. Aunt Mary, with her ultra loud domineering voice and me, the gawking six-footer question mark Greek.

 "I'm going to check on the kitchen, the fish" Aunt Mary swiftly remarked as she stormed into the back kitchen doors like she owned the place.

I shyly followed.

When we got back there, she apparently knew everyone. She mandated a fish show, then examined the casseroles and other delicacies cooling off from the pipping hot oven. She pointed here and there and we marched back to our table.

 "I've been coming here for 30 years," she bragged to me, "they make the best moussaka," she continued as she flagged down a server to take our order.

Whoa. The best? Aunt Mary only uses that term for things she doesn't make like tsoureki and chocolate confections. And moussaka, Greece's national dish, a hearty casserole layered with eggplant, minced meat topped with a nutmeg specked layer of bechamel sauce that gets golden on top from the hour long oven trip, is something my aunt makes very well.  No doubt, in my mind her version was the creme de la creme of the National dish.

Until I tried this one.

"Look!" she says as she points with her fork at the layers, "No potatoes! They put potatoes in as a cheap filler, this one has pure melitzana (eggplant)"

The top was perfectly golden and specked with a type of parmesan and bread crumbs. I took a bite and it was pure heaven. The eggplant slices (with skins on adding a little smokiness) melt into the layers of mince meat topped with a thick layer of bechamel and the best crunchy crust on planet earth. Each time I dug into our portion, a perfect bite with everything on it arrived onto my fork. Most of the time when I try to cut off a piece of moussaka, the entire eggplant comes out causing the pieces to sag and become unbalanced. Not this one. It was textbook.
So good in fact Aunt Mary gestured for another piece. Hubba, hubba!

 Best Moussaka in Athens.

Off course we ordered our standard taverna fare, starting with horta.
 Horta for life!

 My request for melitzanasalata, eggplant salad, was granted. This one tasted a little old and probably had mayonnaise in it. You just never know when you're going to get an exceptional melitzanosalata or a lemon. In this case, it was the later.
An Eggplant salad no-no

 Aunt Mary is a meat and potatoes kind of gal, so she always orders a side of fried potatoes. Ican always count on home cut, fresh, and made to order french fries in Greece. They don't mess around with the freezer burn stuff.
French what? Greek fries.

 Incredible fennel spiked bread to sop up remaining olive oil.

And our fish came out last. Aunt Mary was quick to cut it up and serve. She liked this photo so much because it shows her serving food and making peoples' bellies full. She asked me to put it on her facebook account. 

 And this one. Onassis's cousin once romanced her when she was in her 20s.

Taverna Louizidis = BEST MOUSSAKA IN ATHENS!

 It was a stormy day in Athens, so just in case you were wondering what harsh conditions look like off the coast of Athens (in Voulagmeni), here you go, taken post moussaka consumption:

If you know of an even better moussaka, PLEASE, by all means let the Banana Wonder Blog know!

Tel: 210-8960591


Peter M said...

I would probably have 2 slabs of that Moussaka. As for the Melirzanosalata, always ask if they make it and if it's charred on the grill (not oven). The smokyness is a MUST.

All too often, many are resorting to pre-made salads/dips.

Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

Anna, I'm with Kalofagas...gimme a second slab please. Looks delicious..interesting they don't use potato. Thanks for the recommendation-will bookmark it if I head off to Greece later in the year!

Apostolos D.C. said...

Nice post, it should be included in your book...

CaliforniaKat said...

I prefer moussaka without the potatoes, and that's how my Greek partner's mom makes it but (dare I say) hers has a bit too much oil. Your discovery intrigues me: How does it not collapse when cutting into it?

Ah, the mysteries and non-Banana wonders of the universe :)

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Anna,

Thanks for the great post. That Moussaka looks *so* good! (^_^) I wish I was in Athens right now, trying it.

Have you found anything in So Cal that's even halfway decent? :)

SouthBayGuy said...

The best moussaka. Be still, my heart, be still. Ok, my dear, what's the moussaka in LA? (cuz I'm not going to Athens anytime soon)

SinoSoul said...

I know this post was about the moussaka but.. the cut of the fries, spectacular, if not genius.

Maria said...

Ooooh, you've got me craving Moussaka like you wouldn't believe! That looks amazing. Will definitely visit that taverna this summer.

Banana Wonder said...

Peter M- You should bring your eating tour to this place! Yeah, always going to ask about the melitzanosalata from now on - that AND elleniko cafe!

Peter G - Yes, and maybe grab a piece for your cali greek friend (drop it off on your way back to Oz?)

Tolis - efharistw! Now about that book...

CaliKat - From this day forward I'm NEVER putting taters in my moussaka. And how it stays together remains one of life's great mysteries.

Exile Kiss - I'm still eating my way through LA's moussaka short list. Most taste like they're made for the Greek army. I will get back to you after trying Aliki's near LAX.

SouthBayGuy - Still working on the LA moussaka scene. Nothing great to report on as of yet but I'll let you know :)

Sinosoul - Hey thanks, those fry guys were feeling left out.

Maria - Yes, please do and let me know what you think! Maybe you can make one similar?

LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! said...

wow the best! i wish I were about to go to Athens to sample it, hopefully someday. For now I will have to try Moussaka for the first time in LA, any suggestions?

Diana said...

I've never actually had moussaka before! If you find a good moussaka out in these parts, please let me know so I can try it! :)

Banana Wonder said...

Eat Cake - Still working on the So Cal moussaka - we didn't have any at Great Greek! Darn!

Diana - I'm thinking now I should roll up my sleeves and really get to work and make my own. hmmmm

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