Greece was another story. I remember in my previous visits to Athens, Santorini, and Poros, I was not swept away by the food. I was puzzled with the oft thought that I get tastier (more authentic?) Greek eats in New York. This time I was in the port town of Pireaus and my dining experience was not impressive. I ate al fresco at a local-looking tavern, which provided a softer landing pad for scrutiny.
Still, a few things were on point, while others were disappointing. Namely the cabbage and carrot shredded salad was in its rawest form without a lick of dressing, lest a sprinkle of spice or herb. Dip-wise, the hummus was lackluster, jonesing for some flavor. Conversely, the tzatziki (a favorite condiment of mine since it touched my tongue at the ripe age of 10) was as thick and silky and garlicky and refreshing as it should be, with uneven chunks of crunchy cucumber and just the right amount of herbaceous oregano.
My whole squid on the grill had a nice char and the body was firm yet tender - a good thing. The tentacles unfortunately were overcooked to a rubbery tooth-pull. The real downer were the grilled sardines, which packed not a pinch of flavor, even with a generous squeeze of lemon. However, to end on a truly tasty note, the experience was salvaged by the best thing since sliced bread: grilled cheese. No, not the sandwich. Haloumi (a semi-firm cheese) actually charred on the grill, served warm under a blanket of fresh, chopped parsley. Its salty bite is slightly less sharp than that of feta, and is even further mellowed by citrusy lemon juice. It pulls like partially hardened mozzarella and this lovely texture combined with the crisped exterior is a divine mouthfeel. Dare I say cheese is better grilled than fried? I can assure you this one is.
Turkey was a treat (on my birthday to boot) and Greece followed with a mixed bag. If you must make a bet, put all your eggs in a Turkish basket.