I love big circus tents. Maybe this fondness stems from an early love of playing “parachutes” during primary school: pulling the swath of fabric up and letting go before screaming and running underneath the silky dredges, hoping to emerge on the other-side before it nets you, flapping about on the lawn.
Whilst there’s no risk of the decorative fabric ceiling of Xanthi collapsing on our heads anytime soon,the sumptuous golden waves and red Ottoman carpet interior manages to exude a warmth and intimacy in stark contrast to the steel and glass behemoth where the restaurant resides.
Xanthi is named after a city from Thrace in northern Greece, which has seen its fair share of struggle in the past: conquered by the Ottomans and overtaken by the Bulgarians, their cuisine has absorbed various foreign influences over time. And although Greek cuisine feels under-represented in Sydney’s fine dining arena, perhaps we’re finally seeing a resurgence of the Mediterranean fare in modern form.
Complimentary sourdough: served with olive oil and sea salt
We arrive fairly hungry and greedily eye the share dishes, mains and the spit with lip-biting indecision. The Potato Princess has been here before and recommended the fried school prawns.
Fried School Prawns: tossed in a honey, fish sauce, sesame seed & flaked almond dressing $10
School prawns are my favourite, the natural sweetness of the young prawns and delicious golden crunch are enhanced by a thoughtful drizzle of honey and scattering of almond flakes. I’d happily have a dish of these with a cold beer every day!
Pork Belly Baklava: Sliced pork belly with a date and pistachio filling served with a date & mastic sauce and crackling $21
I’ve had Pork Belly Baklava on my mind since seeing Helen’s post last year. Whilst it’s not as large and multi-layered as I envisioned the fatty shredded pork meat and layers of crackling disappear in a heart beat.
Fried Veal Sweetbreads
Gigantes: Braised spiced tomato and onion butter beans with crumbled fetta $8
I always have a culinary soft spot for sweetbreads and these do not disappoint: crumbed and deliciously creamy they’re served up on a bed of yoghurt and lettuce. We also order the gigantes to offset the amount of meat we’re devouring. The braised butter beans are lovely and soft, a comforting mouthful of tomato, spice and the sharp savoury punch of toasted fetta.
From the Spit: 250g Lamb $38
The hero of our meal arrives just as it dawns on us we’ve unfailingly over-ordered once again. Our dish of lamb from the spit takes me back to my first tasting of Tsirekas’ 6 hour roast lamb from last year’s Crave Food Festival. The flesh is tender but still firm, hiding under a large crisp tile of herb rubbed crackling.
Olive Oil ice cream: Scoops of Elea Creta Extra Virgin Olive Oil infused, pistachio & dried fig ice cream $9
The desserts offered range from simplicity to the refined. The olive oil ice cream arrives rather spartan: three scoops in a bowl with a swift dusting of icing sugar; the oil gives the ice cream an almost floral essence and added smoothness, oft interrupted by nuggets of pistachio and fig. Although I found this rather intriguing not everyone at the table was convinced.
Mango and passionfruit Bougatsa: Semolina milk custard wrapped in hand rolled filo pastry, served with Mastiha ice cream $15
On our way in we spotted a young chef working away at the filo dough and were keen to give the hand made rendition a try. The bougatsa is the house specialty: smooth, thick custard encased within perfectly thin filo offers a comforting shatter as we dig our spoons in. I felt the sauce itself was too gaudy for something so rustic but the others were enjoying their sugar hit.
David Tsirekas in action
The bill arrived and we hesitated for a moment, dreading coughing up a small fortune for the feast we’ve ordered. Surprisingly the sum was a pittance, the food itself barely edging past $20 each! The sweetest ending of all.
A well considered offering nestled amongst a few food favourites and food royalty. They menu is varied and offers more than just the Greek cliches with small share dishes, mains and meat from the spit to cater for an after work snack, express lunch or a long meal with friends. For a severely underpresented cuisine there’s a lot to discover in David Tsirekas’ menu or if nothing else, come for the Ouzo trolly or a thoroughly Grecian grape tipple. Opa!
a. Level 6, Westfield Pitt Street, Sydney CBD 2000
t. 9232 8538