We were seated by the window overlooking graffiti laden neo classical buildings. The dining area is composed of muted colors. Its main accent is drapery hanging from the ceiling. The décor lent a minimal, elegant backdrop to our elaborate, three hour food experience.
Funky Gourmet is both sophisticated and playful. The molecular gastronomy restaurant, open since 2000, has recently been awarded its second Michelin star. Chefs Georgianna Xiliadaki and Nikos Roussos are young and ambitious; It is obvious that they delight in surprising their guests with culinary innovations.
Some dishes are simple but exquisite elevations of traditional homey Greek cooking, such as the fish in avgolemono (egg-lemon sauce) and the rosemary flavored lamb chop. Others are more dramatic manipulations. For example, one dish presented a granita infused with the flavors of a Greek “xoriatiki” salad.
A few surprises were genuinely delightful. Picking a white strawberry to eat from a potted plant at our table felt like a sweet gesture from the chefs. It gives “farm to table” cooking new life.
The standouts were: the white chocolate cracker over fish roe, sea urchin with homemade spongey bread, snails with black truffle, lamb brain, and the restaurant’s homemade liquor with Delamain cognac.
Before I transition into our discussion with the chefs, I want to offer two tips:
1. Definitely forego the imported beers for the fresh Chios beer. It is fantastically bright and velvety.
2.When they tell you to keep your mouth tightly closed while eating the orange explosion truffle dessert…believe them. A server shot me a discreetly sympathetic glance when some of my orange surprise ended on the table!
Q. How do you balance the desire to create whimsical effects through molecular gastronomy techniques, with consideration of the resulting flavor of a dish?
A. In Funky Gourmet, food is considered an experience, i.e. it is food that you can eat. In this sense, we create artistic compilations but we always keep in mind that at the end of the day, Citi s food and the most important thing is that it has to be delicious. For this reason, techniques are a mean to an end, and that is delicious food, and not merely used just to surprise.
Q. Your menu is inspired by Greek cuisine- you recreate a version of pastitsio and the xoriatiki salad, for example. What tradiional Greek dishes are you looking forward to experimenting with and elevating in future menus and why?
In Funky Gourmet, food is considered an experience
A. We love our Greek tradition and local ingredients. Therefore, the elevation of our Greek heritage is made in a dual way, either by re-interpreting classic local recipes or by the use of traditional ingredients. For example, at the moment we have introduced a new plate which is called ‘catch of the day fricassee’ . Here, top quality Greek fish from the Aegean sea is used and it is cooked in a fricassee way, with wild greens and many herbs. A Greek classic with best ingredients.
Q. Your restaurant offers more than a series of dishes- it offers an experience. What do you aim for your guests to consider, learn, and feel during the course of their meal?
A. As the name denotes, we believe in a cuisine that is both funky and gourmet…Fine dining that is innovative and also playful, that activates the senses, that truly engages our guests in a stimulating, exciting and unconventional way. We re-think our tradition and strive to create an avant-garde cuisine, that evokes emotions and triggers memories, that is refined, provoking, amusing. A FunkyGourmet cuisine.
Q. How do you observe the interest and receptiveness in Greek society to molecular gastronomy?
We strive to create an avant-garde cuisine
A. The truth is that the term that best denotes what we do in Funky Gourmet is avant-garde gastronomy. Molecular gastronomy is a term that has been falsely associated with our type of cooking but it would be best linked with science, what they do in laboratories rather than actual cooking. What we do in Funky Gourmet is cooking presented and thought in a different way to create an experience. And this has been accepted very well and has received fast recognition not only by the Greek people but worldwide.
Q. Please share a vivid food memory from your past that informs/influences the way you cook today.
A. I will never forget one of the first days at Culinary School, while we were studying Culinary Arts in New York in the Institute of Culinary Education, when our first Chef / Instructor, Chef Ted was giving a hands-on seminar on French cooking, that called for a beurre-blanc sauce. While we were trying with-no-result to finish the sauce by adding some butter, as the recipe called, Chef Ted approached and said ‘Leave it to me Georgianna’ and added a few extra chunks of butter The sauce had thickened in no time and the flavour was extraordinary!! Ever since I realised the importance of butter in cooking!