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Just a stone’s throw from Place de la Republique in Paris, Athens-born chef, Alexiou Vassili, is introducing Parisian restaurant goers to the traditional, once-forgotten, recipes of his homeland. The result is a revelation.
For example, taramasalta is only really eaten in Greece “during Easter around Lent, serving as a substitute for meat,” explains Vassily. “Moussaka, meanwhile, is a dish that is cooked in the oven over a long period of time and is only really eaten during the summer using aubergine and authentic Greek yogurt. Here in Paris, the restaurants and delis offer it all year round and use lots of béchamel sauce!"
"We wanted to get back to the authentic taste of Greek cuisine that is far richer and far more varied than people here believe. For this, we dug up some original, long-forgotten traditional recipes such as corn and dandelion salad, oven-roasted lamb roast with bulgur flavoured with black truffles [a recipe from Crete], cod with aioli and botargo risotto [a traditional dish from the Cyclades], cream cheese flavoured with cardamom, nutmeg, raisins and honey [a typical dessert hailing from the island of Patmos) and couscous cake with honey and currants accompanied by halva ice cream [a real treat!]."
The range and subtlety of the flavours that accompany these authentic dishes are, of course, down to the ingredients, freshly imported from all over Greece. Botargo [cured fish roe] from the Ionian Islands, honey, dried wild sage and olive oil from Crete, sun dried tomatoes and Fava beans from Santorini.
Given free reign, Alexiou is capable of inspirational, creative dishes that would make Heston Blumenthal green with envy, such as truffle potatoes with cocoa jelly, black truffles, capers and cream or beetroot tagliatelle with marinated anchovies and coriander.
Whether they fall under the "traditional" or "creative" category, the inventive and meticulously crafted dishes at L'Olivier never fail to surprise. As for the wine, well, Alexiou and Orfanidis Niki offer a list that features some great white wines from Santorini vineyards such as Hatzidakis and Parparoussis, where the wonderful Muscat de Rio Patras is produced. An opportunity not to be missed for any wine buffs!
Tel: 01 42 77 12 51
Daily lunch menu: 13 € (starter and main course or main course and dessert)
À la carte menu: 30-40 €.
Seats 20 inside and 12 on the terrace. Open every day except Saturday lunch and Sunday.