I have never had the opportunity to experience ‘Greek Cuisine’ nor chanced upon an authentic Greek restaurant in the Eastern Province.
All that changed when I was invited to attend the ‘Greek Food Festival’ at the Intercontinental Al Khobar. ‘Chef Emmanouil Kyriakidis’ is a well-known personality having been awarded the title of ‘Ambassador of Greek Gastronomy 2019’ and the festival would highlight some of his favourite ‘Taste of Home’ recipes. I knew my time had come and I was not going to let this pass.
Starting from the 12th of October, the food festival will go on till the 18th of October at the ‘Twist Restaurant’ in Intercontinental Al Khobar between 7pm – 11pm.
The entrance to the restaurant had been tastefully decorated to imitate a typical Greek building and trays of food all prepared for the day’s guests.
The bread display was stacked with delicious varieties to go with the spread and there was a whole section dedicated to different types of Greek cheese.
Here I will summarise my personal favourites from the day and why if you are a first timer, this would be the perfect introduction into the world of ‘Greek Grande Cuisine’. I tried hard to eat my way through them all but there was only so much I could eat.
1. ‘Soupies Krasates‘ – This traditional cuttlefish stew is cooked with a lot of Onions and Bay leaf and in Greece, they add red wine while cooking. I’m not sure what they used as a substitute here but it was scrumptious. The base sauce complimented the subtle flavour of the cuttlefish.
2. ‘Sofrito‘ – This beef fillet dish had to be my favourite dish of the day. The beef had been sautéed with garlic and slightly charred to perfection. There was a good hint of lemon and had been garnished with parsley. I would have wiped this clean myself had I got my hands on some plain rice. Drizzle a bit of the juices from the meat to add more flavour to the rice.
3. ‘Pastitsada‘ – This chicken dish feels almost like chicken cooked in curry but without all the gravy. The chicken was delectable and fell right off the bone and together with the buttered pasta made for an mouth-watering combination. I have never across this thick a pasta before but I thoroughly enjoyed the texture and taste.
4. ‘Moschari Lemonato‘ – Lemon features in a lot of the dishes here and it is also extensively used in Greek cuisine. This traditional veal stew is no different with lemon being the main ingredient. How they managed to make this taste lip-smacking good without overpowering the taste of the meat is astonishing. The meat soaks up this lemon and gravy combination and this would go beautifully well with rice.
5. ‘Psari Plaki‘ – This baked fish would have tasted a lot better with a little less tomato in my opinion. The tomato masks a lot of the flavour. That being said, the fish is cooked well and that shows when you break it down to bite size pieces. This would go well with some pasta and sauce.
6. ‘Greek Roasted Lamb‘ (Crete) – Placed right near the entrance, it is no wonder that this gorgeous display of meat was the main attraction. Decked with portions of roasted lamb accompanied by roasted potatoes, the fat / meat blend was just about right. The meat was a little dry but with a little bit of the fat to make the meat moist, this closely resembles the meat served with Mandi. Subtle spices really enhances this beautiful dish.
7. There is a section of fresh meat and seafood to choose from and they will prepare it right away. The lamb chops were tender and moist but I would avoid the kebabs because of the overpowering flavour of bay leaf.
Apart from the main course, there were also salads, and different varieties of Anchovies to choose from. The clams marinated in lemon thyme sauce was refreshingly appetising, so was the ‘Xtapodi Xidato’ (Octopus in Vinegar Sauce). The ‘Tarama Salata’ (Cod Fish Roe Spread) goes amazing well with bread and has the consistency of Mayonnaise without all the fat.
By the time I was done with the main course, I scarcely had any space left for Dessert. Pushing myself, I went for the ‘Greek Mille Feuille’ which was basically puff pastry layered with sweet cream and drizzled with a sort of syrup that I wasn’t familiar with. I liked how light it was but I wish was a little sweeter.
The ‘Greek Food Festival’ is unique for many reasons. There aren’t any Greek restaurants in the Eastern Province that I know of and it would be an absolute shame if you do not take the opportunity to participate, considering ‘Chef Emmanouil’ is considered the best Greek chef’ outside Greece. The festival runs till the 18th of October and I guarantee you won’t regret it.
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