It's Truffle Time At "Sale e Pepe" In Kolonaki
- by XpatAthens
- Friday, 20 February 2015
It's the season for white truffles and one of the best restaurants to samples these delicacies in Athens is Sale e Pepe in Kolonaki. The restaurant serves Italian food which focuses on serving seasonal specialities. The owner Ivan Ottaviani, is a big wine lover and the restaurant has one of the best wine lists in Athens with a focus on Italian wines. The service is extremely friendly however prices are on the high side (apetizers 15-20 Euros, main dish around 30Euros, cheese and desert around 20 Euros). White truffle dishes cost approximately 50 Euros.
Wonderful restaurant with a very nice view of the Acropolis (which is more subtle than Orizontes).Sale e Pepe has a tasting menu available for a minimum of 2 persons. Nice wine selection but you may be pushed to buy Grecian wine by the sommelier.
Sale e Pepe, Tel 210-7234102, address 34 Aristippou Street - Kolonaki
Review: It was a Friday afternoon and friends suggested we go out to dinner. After discussing some potential restaurant choices we decided to book at Sale e Pepe in the Kolonaki area of central Athens. An out-of-the-way Italian restaurant, housed on a narrow street on the slopes of the Lycabettus; where parking is typically a nightmare.
I knew Sale e Pepe from Mykonos: a very small but pleasant restaurant that served tasty Italian food with a slight twist. Prices were a bit steep, but being in Mykonos, over-inflated prices compared to Athens is the norm. I remembered at that moment that Sale e Pepe in Mykonos had closed down a few years back but had not learnt why.
We arrived fifteen minutes late as Athens was under a sheet of rain. Walking in, two 30-something aged women took our coats and seated us. I had the impression that the waitresses were overacting, something common in the US but not in Greece. They gave me the feeling of having had stepped out of “Interview of a Vampire”, seemingly ready to suck our blood. My worst fears were later confirmed, although I did give them the benefit of the doubt for perhaps trying to play their role in the setting of the space they were at. The restaurant was dark. The look was that of a gentrified German autobahn stop. But again, laden with cupboards full of wine on display, the stale smell possibly attributed to its all-surrounding wooden interior, I considered that perhaps I was being too harsh with my first impressions.
So now we were seated. Having heard us conversing in English, they offered us an English menu. A thoughtful touch. We held onto both the Greek and English menus. We like to compare for fun. A 100-page wine “Encyclopaedia” was handed to us, to complement the culinary adventure we were unknowingly about to embark on. The extensive list included wines from Spain, France, Italy, Greece… Lebanon - all with a very expensive price tag. I immediately felt awkward. I was the one who had to choose. I then understood the restaurant’s focus is wine, as a way of complementing the rich Northern Italian tastes it offers. Having narrowed down to a short list, we went down the safe path of ordering a Brunelo from Tuscany, at 60 euro a bottle. It made us reminisce back on a pleasant road-trip a few years ago in the like-named Italian province. The waitress couldn’t help herself from remarking that one of our three pre-selected wines would be better revisited in a few years… at that time I knew we were in trouble! I could also not help at that point but have felt a little uneasy and frankly a little irritated at having been ‘told off’ for not being quite the connoisseur she so clearly wanted us to know she was.
The menu was not so complicated in presentation as much as in content… Loads of venison, wild duck, quail eggs, cod (written cold in the English menu), accompanied by pasta and fruity tastes. My stomach started making strange noises. We were all puzzled with the combinations so it took us a good long while to select the most appropriate dish to each of us. I finally ordered the risotto with Tuscan sausage and leeks. Whilst I liked that the restaurant offered more eclectic Italian tastes unlike the classic pizza, spaghetti, mozzarella, the prices on the menu were frightful.
The final couple we were waiting to join us was late. We were hungry and asked for some bread to fill in time. Our waitress took that opportunity to jump on us by rather assertively suggesting a cheese platter. A two minute explanation followed. We had the four types of aged cheeses explained to us. There was also a plate with finely carved and truly very tasty St. Danielle prosciutto on the menu which we asked for. It was served with two poached eggs and black truffle shavings. Both plates were rich tasting enough to avert us from choosing any additional starters.
As the main courses arrived, the plates were small portioned, as should be for a four course menu, but substantial in taste.
One of us ordered a starter salad as a main course. The menu read “cuttlefish and langoustine salad with crispy vegetables”. We asked what crispy vegetables meant and were told that they were lightly sautéed and then corrected to them being marinated. In fact they consisted of one tuft of plain boiled broccoli, one of cauliflower and half a carrot. The single langoustine turned out to be a shrimp – not even king prawn – again plainly boiled and unseasoned, and the cuttlefish was mediocre in that the olive oil it was covered in was truly tasty.
The gentleman across from me ordered venison with parpardele. Half way through the meal, his eyes rolled as he gasped that the dish was too rich for him. I had a taste and instantly flashed back to a road-kill story in New England. The venison stank!
In all honesty my risotto was ok, cooked properly al-dente, but at around 30 euros a serving I expected something even slightly more sophisticated. The remaining dishes I would say were all simply decent, without much to rave about.
I was tired and getting a little restless with the whole experience, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to sleep well in the next few hours. My stomach had already started to feel like the financial market - in crisis.
As some wanted to end the night on a sweet note, we ordered desserts: a sweet crepe with cheese and a tarte tatin. Our waitress, in her classic mode, also pushed an assortment of three chocolate desserts on us. They were all pleasant in appearance but dissatisfying in taste. The crepe was squishy, the tarte was soggy. Of the three chocolate dishes, the chocolate soufflé was overcooked and reminded me of my puppy’s excrement I recently scooped up, the chocolate pyramid covered in granules of rock salt was just plainly bizarre and the chocolate cube with orange syrup was simply boring.
And finally time to pay! Our waitress was happy to remark that the Lemoncelo shots were on the house! At 110 euro per person (around $150)… I wondered what this restaurant’s strategy was: considering that we are in time of financial crisis, the restaurant was 10% full on a Friday night and prices where totally off compared to the tastes provided.
Overall I would recommend this restaurant to wine lovers alone who might wish to accompany their selection with a cheese or meat platter. Beware and be prepared when venturing down to main course and please make sure you eat early and you arrive on a very! empty stomach.