FOOD: First taste of Greek cuisine fails to live up to the hype


JEFFERSON RUMANYIKA

By JEFFERSON RUMANYIKA
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I had never tried Greek cuisine before. The closest I came was sampling Turkish and Lebanese dishes. I had heard of the Greek Taverna at Hotel Hellenic and thought it the perfect place to try out this cuisine.

However, one minute I would hear it was open and the next it was closed. It was like the infamous Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining, which closed for the winter and opened in the summer. The Greek Taverna at Hotel Hellenic had the same mystery as a hotel in a horror movie.

It was therefore a delight to find it open while driving around the Kimihurura neighbourhood on an easy Sunday afternoon. I and my cousin walked in to find a restaurant straight from a Federico Fellini movie set. It had classic Greek architecture with long, slender columns with a flared capital and cellar entrance.

We arrived at around 5pm and all the lights were turned off with no one in sight. But, an attendant showed up to serve us. We asked about the food and the attendant informed us that the restaurant was not going to be open until 5.30pm. We decided to settle at the patio to enjoy the views of Kigali’s Central Business District.

We ordered mocktails and went with the rainbow cooler and bora bora. The rainbow cooler was made of freshly-squeezed pineapple, passion and orange fruit juice mixed with grenadine and garnished with an orange wedge.

The bora bora had the same ingredients just without the orange juice and was garnished with a lemon wedge. The mocktails were okay but lacked any distinct “personality.”

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When the restaurant opened, the waiter took our order. My cousin settled for pita gyros while I chose Greek meze platter. The pita gyros was sliced marinated beef served in pita bread with onion rings, sliced tomatoes, tzatziki and a side of seasoned potato fries.

The Greek meze platter was made of tarama, tzatsiki, eggplant mousse, Greek salad, ouzo meat balls, fried zucchini, dolmas( stuffed grape leaves), tiropita (cheese pie), spanakopita (spinach pie) and pita bread.

I found the meat well-seasoned, but a bit chewy and served cold. The overall meal was rather dry save for the tzatsiki. The Greek salad was fresh, but was overpowered in taste by the cubed feta cheese. The eggplant mousse was a little too bitter for my liking. The spanakopita went well with the tarama dip.

All in all, the Greek Taverna at Hotel Hellenic is worth a visit. Their portions are generous, the service relatively fast, and the attendant who served us was gracious and well informed on the dishes. Their prices are also fair.



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