|Me with the great man himself, chef Manolis at the Odyssey Taverna.|
This, my friends is the redoubtable Manolis, chef at the Odyssey Restaurant in the Old Town of Rhodes. When anyone asks me "What's your favourite taverna?" there is a shortlist of probably five or six that comes to mind, but top of the list always is the Odyssey. I keep trying to tell myself, "You're not being objective Johnny boy. Surely it's not that good."
I'm throwing my hands up, though, and saying, yes, it is.
It's not particularly expensive and it's not probably the best restaurant in terms of its layout, but what matters first and foremost is the food. The boss is a really nice and unassuming bloke called Babis, whom I've had the pleasure of knowing now for five years and counting (in fact, the taverna and its owner that I refer to in Dean's experience toward the end of "The View From Kleoboulos" is entirely modelled on Babis and the Odyssey. I didn't even bother to change the name from Babis [short for Haramboulos, BTW]). He know what a treasure he has in Manoli, who, incidentally speaks very good English because he trained as a chef and learnt his craft under a certain Gordon Ramsay (or, as the Greeks pronounce it: "Gorndon Ram-say") in London, UK. I was surprised to learn just recently that the often foul-mouthed yet undoubtedly excellent chef Mr. Ramsay is well-known here in Greece too. I knew that Jamie Oliver was huge here, having watched some of his shows with Greek subtitles, but I'd never myself seen our 'Gorn-don' on Greek TV.
The above notwithstanding, the Odyssey isn't pricey at all. Its prices are pretty much par for the course for Rhodes. The food though, is not only wonderfully tasty, but brilliantly presented too. Manolis quite evidently loves what he does and delights in preparing his dishes to not only taste superb, but also to look very photogenic before you demolish them. Here are a couple of examples of dishes I've tried in the past couple of weeks...
|This is a new tuna dish that Manolis created. The fish is fresh and sits on a bed of garlic mushrooms on top of a sauce made from celery root. Words like 'superb' don't do it justice.|
|This is Manolis' tuna Carpaccio (a starter). Wafer thin tuna done with lemon juice and olive oil, topped with chopped spring onions and caper berries and accompanied (Manolis told me especially for me!) by slices of octopus. I often don't order octopus because it's usually in too much vinegar, but not so this one. The salad is a tossed green salad with grated Kefalotyri.|
I don't eat meat and often find that, even in very good tavernas, that presents a challenge. At the Odyssey, however there is an excellent choice of both vegetarian and vegan dishes and someone of either persuasion can eat like a king or queen with no shortage of choice whatsoever. There are a few Greek specialities that both me and the better half love, including kollokyth'okeftedes (Courgette rissoles), which at the Odyssey are the best I've ever eaten. Fact. Manolis works wonders with a couple of mushroom starters too. Oh, I could go on for a long time. For meat eaters, as an example, I've been told by several people over the years that Manoli's lamb kleftiko is the best they've ever eaten, anywhere.
Lots of tavernas only give you one or two choices when it comes to potatoes. it's either chips (French fries folks) or perhaps a jacket wrapped in foil. Manolis, on the other hand does oven potatoes that are simply melt-in-the-mouth scrumptious.
|This is a shot from last year. That rectangular dish on my side of the table is Manolis' oven potatoes.|
If you're tempted to give the Odyssey a try, then this might help, because it's sometimes a little difficult to find it, since it's not on one of the Old Town's main thoroughfares...
Been mooching around the town again of late and I've taken a few new photos to show a couple of changes for the better that have been going on, apart from just views I like the look of...
|The very old (check out the door on the right hand side)...|
|...and the inevitable evidence of how the world moves on!|
|The Palace of the Grand Master is by far the archeologists' preferred site for where once stood the Colossus, by the way. All that stuff about him standing with his feet either side of the harbour entrance is, sadly, the stuff of fairy tales. Makes sense too, as the Palace stands on the highest spot anywhere near the harbour area. Watch this video, it's very good.|
|Another shot showing the restored sails on the Mandraki windmills.|
|I just liked this view!|
|If you watched the video about the Colossus, you'll appreciate this one. Look at the clock tower. If you didn't watch it, here's the link again.|
Well, there we are folks. I'm often asked why I don't write about food. Well, this time no complaints!