Thursday, February 2, 2012

Xanthi: Go for the ouzo, stay for the food

I had never tried the Greek liquor, ouzo before going to Xanthi. I had it on my first visit there and it is now one of the major reasons I look forward to returning to Xanthi again and again.

Not for those who don't like aniseed flavours, ouzo is great fun especially when ice and/or water are added to the liquor for easier drinking of the strong liquor, simultaneously creating the mysterious 'ouzo effect' by turning the liquid cloudy white. Fun, but a serious, warming drink - this time, the Barbayianni Green.

Pickled shitake mushrooms at Xanthi, Level 6, Westfield Sydney, Sydney CBD
The other thing I love about drinking ouzo at Xanthi is that with certain serving sizes of ouzo, you receive complimentary pickles or ouzomezedakia, small sharing plates from the kitchen to nibble on while drinking.

I adored the pickled shreds of cabbage I had last time, but the pickled shitake mushrooms are equally delightful, spiced generously with fennel and coriander seeds, and maintaining the softened but chewy texture of the rehydrated fungus that is so popular in Asian cuisines.

Pickled octopus
The second pickled item we receive with the ouzo was octopus: bite-sized pieces of barely cooked tentacles that were supremely soft and tender as a result.

While the texture was one of the most exciting aspects, the well balanced flavours of garlic, lemon, oregano and, of course, the sourness from pickling removed any trace of fishiness for the octopus-weary.

Tarama dip with pita bread
I'm pretty sure I could eat three meals a day with Greek pita bread. I absolutely adore the stuff; soft and about as fluffy as a flatbread can get and simply meant to be with dips.

All the dip choices sound fantastic at Xanthi but this time we tred the salted and cured cod roe tarama, which was salty, pink, airy and so very moreish.

Sheftalies - Cypriot style pork meatballs
The sheftalies meat balls are more like chunky sausage slices than the minced meatballs I'm more familiar with. Showing off great grill marks within their caul fat skins, these spiced pork balls were lifted with a squeeze of lemon.

BBQ smoked lamb cutlets
Two barbequed cutlets form the lamb ouzomezedakia, which is just the slightest bit awkward among three lamb-eaters at the table. We try not to fight over the delectably smoke-infused, soft-as-butter cutlets sitting atop a creamy puree, but in hindsight, I probably should have tussled for it.

Imamaldi - stuffed roasted eggplant
By the last of our ouzomezedakia, the dining room had become noticeably warm and even a little smoky in the areas facing the open kitchen, but nothing a Mythos beer couldn't help distract from.

The stuffed and roasted eggplant was a soft, sticky mess so I'm not sure if it were really stuffed or just topped with the spicy tomato mix. The tomato-based sauce immediately reminded me of Italian cuisine while the spiced yoghurt added a more familiar flavour profile to the eggplant.

Pork belly baklava
We had a bit of a break between our small shared dishes and the more substantial ones, which was a fine idea considering the impending richness to come.

The pork belly baklava is pretty much a must-order; I mean, hand rolled fillo pastry and pork crackling says it all. Within the pastry roll is shredded pork belly that's not too fatty, chopped dates and pistachios, served with a rather sweet date and mastic sauce.

Prawn and scallop pastry
The prawn and scallop fillo pastry is an interesting one too, with a creamy sauced filling of scallop slices, chopped prawn and an array of herbs plus salmon roe for presentation. Half the table preferred the pork version and the other half the seafood one, so there's really something for everyone.

Caramel baklava ice cream
I was approaching seriously full at dessert time but could hardly resist a couple of sweets to share. The caramel baklava ice cream wasn't quite what I was expecting given the honeyed pastry is my favourite part of baklava.

With plenty of chopped nuts and vanilla bean ice cream, the caramel sauce was a little too much for me to handle but the sweet tooths loved it.

Plate of Hippocrates
I was more interested in the Plate of Hippocrates which featured cubes of "compressed" pineapple, a lovely pineapple sorbet that awakened the palate, pomegranate, mint and a spongey chocolate cake with chocolate sauce.

This array of ingredients wouldn't seem to really go together in theory, and the chocolate component almost didn't, but it was certainly interesting enough that I would order it again (there's some blurb on the menu about the properties of pomegranate as perceived in ancient Greek times).

The end bill was, again, really quite reasonable and given the size of the menu, I can have a very different Greek dining experience at Xanthi time after time. As for the ouzo menu, two down, many to go.

Xanthi Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Mel said...

I still cannot believe I haven't made it to Xanthi yet. With the opening of Westfield and then The Star there are just TOO many places to choose from. One day soon I hope. I could eat pita bread til the cows come home too...with tarama! Yum.

gaby said...

I haven't been there yet either, even when Greek is one of my favourite cuisines. I need to make up an excuse to try some of the many dishes in this post!

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

I work in the same building and i've still not been here. I had ouzo in Greece and boy can that stuff get leathal haha

joey@forkingaroundsydney said...

I went there in the first month and found the pork belly baklava underwhelming, but it looks better now and the lamb cutlets and filo pastry rolls look excellent! Will have to make a return trip sooner rather than later methinks.

Vivian - vxdollface said...

Everything looks so delicious and exotic with so many things I want to try! I'm not fond of liquorice/aniseed but for some reason the ouzo kinda grows on me

Richard Elliot said...

I really liked Xanthi when I went. Particually the lamb cutlets and sheftalies meat balls were two of my favourites.

I was very pleasantly surprised when the bill came. I expected to pay more in Westfield, but was glad that I didn't have to!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

It's great there isn't it? I like an open kitchen. And we also found prices to be very reasonable too.

Dee@foodinhand said...

I concur...a few of us went and ordered heaps but the end bill was a pleasant surprise! You guys ordered all the stuff I didn't, keen to go back! Would also love some rotisserie goat :9

Tina said...

Hi Missy Piggy - Agree, so many places as is, let alone all the new openings...

Hi gaby - You must! It's fabulous food in a rather nice environment (despite the shopping centre bit).

Hi Tina - I can imagine the ouzu getting very dangerous... ;)

Hi joey - At Xanthi's price level, it's completely justifiable going to check on the progress of the pork belly baklava - weekly if need be :D

Hi Vivian - Ha, must be the booze in ouzo that gradually gets your affection. It is certainly rather exotic inside the restaurant.

Hi Richard - The lamb cutlets were to die for but next time I want the roasted meat dishes for sure!

Hi Lorraine - It's definitely on my list of favourite, reasonably priced restaurants :)

Hi Dee - And I'll have to check out what you ordered! :)

Flick Your Food said...

Isnt it a fabulous place. I went on Saturday and never had tried greek wine- fell in love.
the pork belly was amazing- except I didnt expect it to be as sweet as it was.

julie said...

I need a revisit :). Love the pork belly baklava!

Tina said...

Hi Flick Your Food - Oooh, will try the Greek wine next time. After ouzo ;) That mastic and date sauce is rather sweet...

Hi Julie - Yes, but when I have that I haven't yet managed a 'main' meal

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

Love Xanthi but kind of miss Perama in a way too. I guess the feel of the new will always be different to the old.

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

Really want to try Xanthi, food really looks so good.

Tina said...

Hi Rita - I never made it to Perama but Xanthi is closer to me so I'm happy :)

Hi Sara - It is and surprisingly great value!

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

I like Ouzo and I enjoy all the aniseed type drinks. Greek food isn't my favourite cuisine but I have been to Xanthi and was rather impressed. I wouldn't say the prices are reasonable but you're also paying for the location which is very nicely decorated.


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