Sunday, March 11, 2018

CTC, Athens

CTC is an acronym that sounds like sitisi or σίτιση meaning ''to provide food'' in Greek. The restaurant, opened in 2015, is in a quiet neighborhood in central Athens just a few minutes walk from the Hilton Athens hotel.

The corner area that the restaurant is located in is in grey colours with windows on both sides. Inside you can see wooden floors with wooden tables, no tablecloths, white chairs and an open kitchen. Tables are located both on the ground floor and on a balcony area inside the high ceiling dining room.

The head chef and owner of CTC is Alexandros Tsiotinis, having a very impressive CV with  experience near Helene Darozze, Alain Passard at L'Arpege, Eric Frechon at Epicure, Pascal Barbot at L'Astrance and other top restaurants like Noma and Spondi after attending the Institute Paul Bocuse.

The menu arrived in a white envelope  with a black sealing wax featuring the logo of the restaurant. 

There is an a la carte menu and 2 degustation menus (which do not include any amuse bouche but you can supplement them with a cost of 5 euros) . The first one called ctc trip with 6 courses and the second more extended one called ctc voyage having 9 courses. All 6 courses of the first menu are included in the second one. We opted for the long 9 course menu. As a concept you can not see what the menu really consists of but rather you get asked by the waiter if you have any allergies or any dietary preferences. There is wine pairing for each degustation menu while the wine list has many options from Greece presented by region as also wines from France, Italy and all around the world. 

The first amuse bouche was a trio of  tasty nibbles presented all together on the table. From right to left, fine herb tuille with beurre noissete and chives mayonnaise, maple syrup and truffle oil popcorn and to the left fake walnut shells made of carob flour, filled with rocket salad, walnut puree and mayonnaise. 


The second amuse bouche presented on an Addam's family hand, a macaron with shells made of carbon filled with eel mouse. The filling was amazing but the shells were very chewy and that was pretty much the only thing I didn't like in the whole meal.  

The third and last amuse bouche was topinambur made into different textures and shapes. A topinambur leaf had black garlic mouse, Jerusalem artichoke mouse to the bottom of the dish and a cracker made also of this amazing root. 

After all these amuse bouches we had a small loaf of bread made of sour milk, full of seeds and a texture between bread and a cake. It was stunning with moist interior and crispy shell. The chef wanted this to be eaten like a separate course so it was served with fleur de sel and a great premium extra virgin olive oil from north Peloponnese called Avalis. 

The first course was a long pasta shell with squid ink lines, shrimps and edible flowers in a seafood broth. This was tasty.

Next was a lobster bisque and corn soup with bergamot and truffle oil served with an airy squid ink bread alongside. This had very good depth of flavor, intense lobster aroma but I wish there was no truffle oil inside. I especially liked how each course was presented with a unique type of bread to enhance the dish. 

Calamari shaped into tagliatelle with fried parsley in a chorizo and calamari broth was very delicate and tasty. The calamari was remarkably tender while the cracker with squid ink mayonnaise gave a good texture to the dish.  

The first main course was a piece of meagre fillet (Umbrina cirrosa or milokopi in Greek) cooked fricassee with lettuce, Avruga caviar, lime and ginger oil paired with plain confit and beetroot coloured celeriac, all in a sour milk sauce. This was a memorable dish, the fish was cooked to perfection with great gelatinous texture (even though milokopi is not generally that tasty, here it was even better than many turbots I have had), the bitterness of the lettuce paired with the earthy aromas of the celeriac and the saltiness of the caviar. Amazing, maybe the best dish of the menu.  

Next we had foie gras ''stifado'' with chestnut puree. Stifado is a Greek way of cooking meat with shallots or onions on a tomato based sauce. Here the foie gras was amazing, buttery soft with caramelized shallots and panceta. This is was in fact the best foie gras I have ever had, by a large margin. 

The last main course was lamb neck with topinambur, Parmesan creme and an acidic sauce of black beer and rosemary. The lamb was nicely cooked sitting on top of a pancake which I thought it might be a bit unnecessary as it made the dish heavier. The light sauce was amazing cutting through the fatty flavor of the lamb. That was a dish I would order again. 

A predessert was an acidic sorbet of lime and green apple, very refreshing and delicious. 

The main dessert,  white chocolate mousse with mandarine, beetroot chips and red fruits sorbet with red Florina pepper was inspired but we found it lacking a bit of texture. A small cake preparation or a crumble would make it perfect. 

Last the mignardises, a lemon and ginger macaron and a crispy dough sheet with cinnamon. 

The wine accompanying our meal was Delas Saint Esprit of Rhone from Grenache, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Viognier grapes. 

Service was very attentive, professional while also very friendly. I would suggest that you book a table a few days in advance as it was full at the time we visited it. You can use the email on their website, which they answer promptly. Of course I would recommend you to visit CTC while in Athens.  

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