‘Saganaki,’ seafood salad, ‘moussaka’–authentic Greek flavors that hit the spot
I have tried many foreign cuisines in Manila. Most of them I really enjoyed although there were a few I wasn’t too crazy about. I realized the ones I didn’t enjoy were inauthentic.
When I moved to Vancouver, there was not one foreign cuisine I didn’t like. Vancouver is a melting pot, with authentic restaurant representations, from the Vietnamese, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Turkish, Korean, Italian, African, to the Greek, among others.
I had one favorite restaurant for each cuisine.
My sister Stella would take us to a Greek restaurant called Kisamos Taverna along the port of Steveston in Richmond. I constantly dream about their food. Every time I am in Vancouver, I have to dine here.
The place is owned and run by a Greek family, and their cuisine is not only authentic tasting but also outstanding.
My favorites are saganaki, which is a salty, creamy and sticky cheese best eaten with warm pita bread, and their seafood chowder with fresh herbs.
Another favorite is a slow-roasted, tender and melt-in-your-mouth roast lamb served with yellow basmati rice. Served on the side are large chunks of seasoned baked potatoes and a Greek salad with a lot of feta cheese. For dessert, I love their ekmek or Turkish bread pudding.
In Manila, the Greek food scene was not too exciting. All of that changed when I tried the new menu of Cyma at Greenbelt. For me, it is the best-tasting Greek restaurant in Manila today. I know they have a few branches all over. This place is a must!
I started with a bowl of assorted olives topped with grated feta and parsley. Fantastic! Then came five kinds of dip with toasted pita bread on the side. Then the seafood platter of clams, scallops, shrimp and octopus. It was drizzled with olive oil, not too spicy green peppers, and everything was perfectly seasoned with sea salt and lemon. Saraaap!
I loved the octopus. Octopus is usually tough and chewy. This was not. It was tender and had that broiled flavor I love.
I discovered they also serve my favorite appetizer, saganaki cheese. This is a pan-fried crispy cheese outside, a bit salty and chewy on the inside. It was topped with date marmalade, but I prefer to have it with the sauce on the side. Grabe ang sarap! Wow!
The seafood salad was also outstanding. I know all the salads of Cyma are winners. Ask the servers what their best-sellers are.
The bruschetta was incredible. It was topped with chopped and seasoned tomatoes with grated white cheese and olives.
The whole baked fish came next with roasted garlic on the side. It was simply seasoned with sea salt and lemon; you could taste the meat’s freshness.
The Alaskan King Crab Legs with creamed pasta on the side should not be missed. It was cooked in olive oil and garlic. This reminds me of the garlic pasta of Thanh Long in San Francisco.
Moussaka tastes different when well made; there is an aroma of nutmeg. This dish consists of eggplant with ground beef or lamb topped with melted cheese. I was going delirious with all this good food, and we were not even done yet.
We had tender chunks of roasted lamb over orzo pasta. I can imagine this orange pasta was cooked in the broth of the lamb chunks. Also out of this world! Next came a platter of grilled meats.
I felt so full but, when you see a platter that looks this good, you elbow your tummy to make more space. It had prawns, meatballs, lamb shoulders and a barbecue of rib meat. This is the meat found between beef ribs, and it was my favorite. There was a green dipping sauce and some hummus. Also a must!
Finally, the dessert. I was so surprised to see they had ekmek. This is a dessert with cold custard cream layered over kataifi pastry, almond and cinnamon with syrup and whipped cream. You have to try this.
There are a few Pinoy chefs I admire. Robby Goco is on top of that list. He is the man behind successful dining places like Tequila Joe’s, Ristras, Charlie’s Burger, Achiote Taqueria, Green Pastures and a few others.
His Green Pastures recipes are so unique and such winners, they have been duplicated by competitors. To me, the original is still the best!
It is no wonder Cyma has great food. He is a walking encyclopedia of culinary information, and most willing to share it. Like me, he also loves to eat and to try anything. Congratulations chef Robby Goco!
This Greek dining adventure has to be one of the best dining experiences I have had here and abroad. Comers highly recommended.
Cyma Greek Taverna is at Greenbelt 2, Makati City. Tel. 7294837. There are branches all over Manila.
Wooden Spoon Pasig is now open at 67 West Capitol Drive, Barrio Kapitolyo. We also have private rooms for functions like meeting and parties. Check us out!