What happens when five phenomenally-talented Greek chefs – including twice Michelin-awarded Nikos Karathanos, brothers and meat artists, Spyros and Vangelis Liakos, master flavor manipulator Pericles Koskinas, and intrepid experimenter Manos Zournatzis – join forces to open their dream restaurant. Total Kitchen Anarchy? Or Gastronomic Wizardry? Insider reviews one of Athens most fascinating dining concepts.
The chefs at Cookoovaya don’t rely on Instagram posts to tell the stories of their lives. They use the dinner plate. And whatever’s on the menu, it’ll tell a story and it’ll be delicious, maybe even transcendent.
The mood is always one of an unending celebration. Not a raucous, unruly frat party but a convivial gathering feting the Greek spirit: glasses clinking to the soundtrack of animated conversations and laughter, waiters bustling about with sizzling fillets, diners coveting each other’s dishes, aromas from the open kitchen wafting through the air, a vibrant feast for all the senses.
When Cookoovaya opened its doors in 2014, with the Athenian owl as its inspiration, not everyone bought their tag line of wise cuisine. With a concentration of more culinary talent per square metre than any other restaurant, critics wondered if they hadn’t heeded any wise counsel at all (too many chefs killing the broth and all that…). Five incredible chefs including twice Michelin-awarded Nikos Karathanos, brothers and meat artists, Spyros and Vangelis Liakos, master flavor manipulator Pericles Koskinas, and intrepid experimenter Manos Zournatzis share the restaurant’s kitchen to churn out some truly inspired gastronomic wizardry.
Skeptics predicted that sooner rather than later their chemistry would get tangled up with their egos and argued that their distinctive culinary approaches would get in the way of a cohesive menu. And yet, Cookoovaya seems to have silenced the cynics and seduced foodies with, for want of a better phrase, wise cuisine.
Simple, seasonal, flavourful fare with huge doses of sagacity and down-to-earth goodness, the philosophy here is ‘not just about eating but of experiencing’. It is an approach that respects the cooking process, service and hospitality with imagination to poetically combine the sun-kissed ingredients that Greece is naturally blessed with. Rooted in the Greek principle of kerasma, it’s hospitality through an incredible meal, of friends sharing dishes, sampling, tasting, enjoying. The menu changes with the season, and the kitchen continually evolves.
The central open kitchen dominates the restaurant providing a live stage for the five chefs to put on a theatrical performance. A seven-metre high vertical wine wall at the entrance immediately underscores the central role that wine plays here. The house wines here – in four varieties – the indigenous Assyrtiko and Malagouzia, Syrah Rosé and Red Merlot have been bottled by Yiannis Girlemis vineyards exclusively for the restaurant.
The norm here is anti-stuffy, no rules, no manuals, no shoulds. This review does not cover any of the exquisite dishes on the menu simply because we concur with the restaurant’s philosophy: ‘you need to remember how you felt, not what you ate’.
Open daily from 1 pm to 1 am, Cookoovaya is a terrific central location to take your business clients or first-timers to for an informal, elegant dining experience.
Cookoovaya | wise cuisine, 2A Chatzigianni Mexi str., Tel: 210.723.5005, www.cookoovaya.gr/el/
Insider Weekly, October 11, 2017.