In the ’90s, big, glamorous and expensive Indian restaurants opened in Athens’ well-off southern and northern suburbs.
The best places for Indian food in Athens are quite modest. One of them, Indian Masala, is located downtown, on Ermou Street near the Monastiraki metro station. It is quite a lively place, with terracotta-colored walls and a small but empty courtyard; through the windows one can see a beautiful olive tree against an ochre backdrop.
For something a little more fashionable, Bollywood is the slightly more expensive sister restaurant to Indian Masala. A trendy, tapas-style venue in the hip Gazi area with a DJ spinning Indian fusion tunes, Bollywood Restaurant lives up to its glamorous name.
To sum up Greek food, it is all about fresh, seasonal vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, yoghurt, salads, non-processed cheese, a fair dose of exotic herbs and condiments, daily catch of seafood and meats of every kind. Very Mediterranean!
Melizanosalata may not be a name that one can come to terms with right away. But this popular dish is made of a coarse puree of grilled or smoked eggplant, with olive oil, onions, tomatoes, garlic and herbs.
Then you have Tzatziki which is yoghurt blended with cucumber, garlic, dill, little oil and vinegar. If this brings to you the memory of our own raitas – or similar variants across India – you are bang on.
There is also sometimes roundels of eggplant the way you make baigun bhaja in the western quarters of India; only that Greeks let the vegetable taste its own, then spice it up slightly with turmeric or other condiments. One difference is that many dishes, the starters at least, are served cold, unlike the preference for hot in India.
There are also dishes like Dolmadakia — vegetables and rice stuffed in vine or cabbage leaves and steamed. It looks like what people in western India make with the leaves of yam and colocasia or Arbi. Mousaka is again hugely popular – slices of fried egg plant layered with mincemeat, béchamel sauce and topped with cheese.