IT was midnight when my travel mates and I touched down in Santorini from Athens. Before the trip, my impression of the island was that it would be full of tourists, hotels, souvenir stores, and Chinese couples, wearing long wedding gowns and sweating under the scorching sun, posing for their wedding album.
They were all true. But we also had our share of joy and surprises on the island for two days.
For one, the sunset was the most beautiful we had seen. And secondly, the dinner was amazing.
Santorini receives loads of tourists from all over the world everyday. And whatever your thoughts or preferences are about Greek cuisine, a fine dining experience is ensured.
The problem, however, is that there are too many options with some bad mixed with the good even if they have good ratings on the crowd-sourced app Yelp. Dining, after all, is really a very personal thing.
We didn’t look for reviews and comments before trying out a meal, because we wanted to give ourselves some surprises.
After a sunny day, we’d have never thought that it would drizzle and get stormy in the evening, which is a rare thing for a Mediterranean country in late May. We felt chilly with our summer clothes on, and practically bumped into the first restaurant we could find.
It was Pelican Kipos.
The first thing we noticed about the restaurant was that it was beautiful. At the entrance was a well-laid out garden with shrubs and flowers. It was a pity that we had to sit inside because of the weather.
The interior was cozy. Not very big, but quiet with comforting lighting.
The menu itself wasn’t much of a surprise. It had common Greek cuisine, seafood and the usual stuff found in any restaurant on the island.
Before we placed our order, a waiter approached us with a huge plate on his hand. On the plate was raw seafood, including two lobsters, that looked very fresh. He told us we could order some seafood along with pasta, as the dish was not on the menu.
The price he offered seemed reasonable and we decided to order pasta with the two lobsters. We also decided to try the gigot stew in pottery jar.
The lobster was very fresh. It was quite chewy and the tomato sauce brought out its sweetness. The lobster juice and tomatoes also created a great sauce for the pasta underside. The only little problem was that the pasta, while tasty, was a bit overcooked for my taste. Personally, I believe al dante pasta would have made the dish perfect.
The gigot was a surprise however. I generally don’t enjoy mutton as they often have some kind of smell but this was quiet different. The mutton was tender, soft, and had a special meat taste but no smell. The carrots and potatoes with the gigot were also soft and tasty — all vegetables cooked with meat are usually delicious.
All of us agreed it was the best mutton we’d ever had. It might be a little bit too salty, but we figured it was because the difference between China and Greece.
Mama Thira Tavern
The restaurant was very close to the famous blue-dome white church in Santorini, the one whose pictures can be found everywhere on the Internet.
As very bad travelers, we still didn’t know the name of the church when we left the island, but we did remember Mara Thira, because we had good food and enjoyed the beautiful sunset from there.
The restaurant was on the middle of the hill, facing the sea. Through the wide French windows, the view of the sea and the sky in front of us unveiled.
The environment of the restaurant was quite domestic, matching its name. So was the menu. We ordered Santorini salad, some seafood and some pasta.
We all agreed that Santorini salad was a must-try, not only because of its seemingly very traditional name. The sauce was refreshing, the greens were juicy and fresh while the mozzarella was absolutely the cherry on the top.
One of the perks of staying on an island is that you always get the best seafood. Mama Thira was no exception. The octopus was chewy but not exactly hard to chew, while mussels and prawns didn’t need much seasoning. Their original flavor was good enough with some white wine.
We tried to linger for as long as possible in the restaurant and couldn’t stop snapping pictures of the astounding view.
Cliche or not, it didn’t matter. After all, nothing was better than a feast for the both eyes and tongues.
Santorini has three main beaches, the white beach and red beach in Akrotini, and the black beach in Kamari. All the beaches had great restaurants, and most of them offered fresh seafood. The island has many cats and as you enjoy your meal, they might lurk around for a bite or two.
The island is also full of small juice bars, snack kiosks and ice cream shops. We tried a lot of them, mainly because it was scorching hot and we walked a lot. Fortunately, we didn’t find places that travelers should avoid.
Pomegranate was my favorite though. As they squeezed the seeds in the juice, its bitter taste was quite sobering in an afternoon.