Saturday, October 22, 2016

Avissinia, Meliartos & Lontos @ Athens, Greece

Duck inside Cafe Avissinia to escape the Sunday bustle of Athens' flea market at Monastiraki Square - Macedonian sour cabbage stuffed with pork & Cypriot vine leaves with minced meat are among the attractions at this Greek equivalent of a French bistro.

Refuel with traditional pastries at Meliartos, hailed as one of Athens' best bakeries, after checking out the colossal ruins of The Temple of The Olympian Zeus.

A short stroll from the Acropolis, Lontos makes for a pleasant stop to rest the feet & eat some seafood - octopus in vinegar flavoured with fennel & orange, alongside saganaki pan-cooked shrimp - paired with Greece's Metaxa brandy-based liqueur, dubbed 'the smoothest amber spirit under the sun,' made with aged distillates & aromatic wines from the Aegean islands.

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WTF - What Tasty Food @ Bangsar

When WTF first opened four years ago, its founders were novices in KL's F&B scene, eager to leave a  warm impression on fellow vegetarians in Bangsar & beyond. Fast forward to 2016, & this distinctive venue has indisputably accomplished its goals - its current menu channels a captivating, colourful medley of Indian, Mediterranean, Malaysian & even Mexican cooking, prepared with an impeccably skilled attention to detail, making WTF more than a worthwhile visit, even for insistent carnivores.

WTF's repertoire seems encyclopedic - the three amiable couples who run this restaurant have meticulously refined each recipe, & it's easy to understand why they're reluctant to omit any of these tried-&-tested offerings. What would we leave out? Certainly not appetite-whetting starters like the Dahi Ke Sholay (RM18; crispy-creamy breaded pockets stuffed with hung curd, herbs, spices, tomatoes & onions, served with a vivacious dip) or the Eggplant Bruschetta (RM20; a terrifically ingenious use of eggplant, sliced & baked to a light crunch in the tandoor. with a tangy salad to enhance each slice, peerless for snacking).

What we love about WTF is its command of flavours & its comprehension of textures, exercising clear-eyed techniques to make the best of fresh, quality produce. Staff members head to the markets several times a week to hand-pick ingredients for dishes like the Lettuce Wraps (RM15; dollops of stir-fried tofu & vegetables cushioned with lettuce leaves. coupled with garlic-chilli sauce), Paneer Crispies (RM18; house-made cottage cheese shaped into fingers, tinged with oregano, basil & chilli flakes, dipped in a beautiful batter and shallow-fried till golden-brown) & Ghunghat Wali Subzi (RM24; literally vegetables covered with a scarf, a thickly irresistible, gravy-steeped preparation baked in the tandoor till its 'veil' turns into an edible naan).

Seasonings prove spot-on, ensuring that everything tastes just right, never too salty or sugary, with firm principles anchored on painstakingly ground spices & top-notch oils, eschewing MSG, artificial additives & frozen ingredients, doing delicious justice to cherished classics like Mumbai's Vada Pau (RM10; street food at its supremely tastiest - a huge, creamy potato patty sandwiched in a fluffy, preservative-free bun, sliced & slathered with garlic & coriander chutneys), Samosa Cholay Chaat (RM12; traditional samosa broken into pieces, crowned with a chickpea gravy, topped further with date-&-tamarind & coriander chutneys & a drizzling of yoghurt) & the marvellous Paalak Chaat (RM18; delicately battered spinach leaves, mingled with gram flour crackers, chutneys & freshly beaten yoghurt; consumed cool when served, with its crisp, comforting textures intact).

The selection is predominantly Indian, but it successfully steers into other territories too, with a consistent regard for well-balanced nourishment - the Nasi Lemak Wrap (RM15) is fusion at its most fun, stuffing a stir-fried mix of rice, sambal, cucumber, tofu & peanuts in a wholemeal wrap, turning Malaysia's national staple into newfangled finger food. Other playfully fulfilling pleasures include the Tex-Mex Burger (RM18; with a protein-packed kidney bean patty) & the Messy Pasta Sizzler (RM30; a substantial sharing portion of saucy Italian penne with herbed rice & vibrant roasted veggies on a sizzling plate).

By now, it's obvious that customers should head here hungry, bracing for a feast of monumental proportions. We've scarcely scratched the surface, but suffice to say, bring your entire clan of family members or posse of friends to partake of the Tandoori Platter (RM28; a reasonably priced array of very tasty cauliflower florets, paneer, potatoes and kebabs marinated & slow-roasted in the tandoor), Biryani Sizzler (RM30; vegetable biryani with a moreish cashew gravy), Shaam Savera (RM22; soft potato and paneer koftas strikingly served in two gravies of tomatoes & spinach - red & green for a day-&-night contrast) & Tava Vegetable Sizzler (RM35; a bountiful melange of marinated tandoor vegetables), rounded out by a ravishing assortment of generous-sized flatbread, like missi roti, garlic naan, tandoori roti & butter naan. Everyone will thank you for it.

Desserts extend WTF's streak of satisfyingly rich but clean, pure flavours & intricate fragrances - whether it's kitchen-made kulfi, rose-scented falooda, halwa, gulab jamun, ras malai or malpua with rabri, these are some of the top interpretations of Indian sweets that we've savoured in KL, a showcase for lusciously tuned nuances. By the time we sipped our final cup of masala chai, we felt like we'd been for the best Indian wedding banquet of our lives. Many thanks to WTF for having us back.

WTF - What Tasty Food
98 Lorong Maarof, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. Mon-Thurs, 1130am-10pm; Fri-Sun, 1130am-11pm. Tel: 019-261-7070

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