Περί Ορέξεως – Peri Orexeos – Heraklion, Crete, Greece

The food and the cuisine of a culture is very easily depicted in small restaurants and shacks that the locals know. They usually don’t care about the appearance of the food, just the quality and the price. When however the food is offered in a more “gourmet” way it is a challenge. You have to overcome the stables and add perspective in dishes that have been around for decades or even centuries. This is not easily achieved, and only some very talented chefs can present the same food in a new way. Unfortunately this comes with a price… A very high price indeed. This is specially true for greek cuisine. The major challenge with greek food is not the food but the greeks themselves. A culture that has been kept isolated from international influences due to the very small emigration currents. It is therefore almost mandatory to stick to the local ingredients, techniques and methods. To overcome these without offending the local taste palette it is hard.

“Peri Orexeos”, a restaurant in the downtown of Heraklion, has done it. A restaurant that pays respect to the local cuisine but also adds perspective and new approach to the cretan cuisine, with a wide variety of local specialties and some new propositions to accommodate them. “Peri Orexeos” has been around for many years and has kept both quality and innovation very high.The name holds from the greek quote “Περί Ορέξεως; Κολοκυθόπιτα…” The old greek quote that loosely translated in english says “Craving? Zucchini pie”. It states the freedom of choice and and the variety of taste that suits different people. A restaurant that promises to cover each taste. And I think it comes close to it.The environment is original, and although it remains classy and modern it has an old time flare to it, without trying to imitate the traditional; stone walls, wood, candles etc. It has modern artwork, gentle lighting (but you can still see the food) large tables and comfy chairs. It is an environment that promises a good time. The staff is also very polite and knowledgable. The whole environment raises the stakes and pormises good food.

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The food now… Where to start…

For one thing they take literally the name of the restaurant to the food. They offer zucchini pie with sour cream as a great way to say hello. Followed is local olive paste and crusty rustic bread. the menu is simple and although it offers great choices, it is contained (with a few exceptions) to the strict cretan diet limits.The h’ orderves list is extensive and very traditional. It has to be long. A greek restaurant that is respectful to the tradition of greek food, has to have many h’ orderves since many times this is the entire meal; an long series of h’ orderves or mezes as called in greek. They are not traditional, however. No contradiction here though. They have traditional ingredients, methods and techniques of preparations, flavors, but are completely new and redesigned. For instance the have a cold savory napoleon, with cretan myzithra cheese, basil… This is the spirit of the whole restaurant menu. One of my favorite starters are the baked potatoes with the beets yogurt sauce. They have an amazing apaki (cured in salt and vinegar and smoked) grilled to perfection. The also have a great koukouvagia, “owl”. As simple as it gets.The salads are a whole new chapter and although they are not as many as the h’ orderves they are certainly great. The use of paximadi (dried out whole wheat and oat bread) as croutons is ingenious. The green salad with the local greens is my favorite. Not only the combination is amazing but also the use of the herbs is unique. Also the arugula and cheese salad is a must. The others salads, are nice but somewhat typical in greek restaurants.The main dishes? Oh me… Oh my! They are an inspiration on a plate. Chicken with feta and olive paste, pork tenderloin with sun-dried tomatoes and manouri (a greek soft white cheese). Sauté pork with white wine and veggies, chicken burger stuffed with sun dried tomato, red pepper, olives and an assortment of greek cheeses.. The most interesting, however, is the the chicken kataifi. Kataifi is a finely shredded phyllo dough usually used for deserts. In this case it is stuffed with chicken and covered with the special “Peri Orexeos” sauce. But… the best is the simplest. Makaronia. The greek way to cook pasta. Pasta cooked in a goat broth toped with mysithra, a greek semi hard cheese.

To top it all of, it has a great selection of wines, greek of-course. It could have been bigger, but this is Heraklion, you cannot expect a very sophisticated wine clientele. The selection is, however, carefully assembled and it suits well the plates.

 

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For the end you will be treated to some homemade deserts, like the cheesy-creamy icy thing (I have no idea how to describe it) in a waffle cone, some nice candied fruits and semolina halvah. But the real treat is the chocolate shoufle with ice cream… Do I need to describe it? I don ‘t think so.I conclusion “Peri Orexeos” is a great restaurant with very carefully described cuisine, nice simple, greek ingredients and most importantly a new perspective to old classics. Highily recommended. You can rarely find a restaurants with all these qualities, in a small town like Heraklion. I did and I am happy I did.
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