It’s no secret that eating on the island of Santorini can be pricey, especially at restaurants in Fira that offer stunning views back to the sea. While some tend to be tourist traps offering ‘ok’ food at inflated prices, there are some definite gems on the island, like Assyrtico Wine Restaurant.
Returning to Santorini after seven years, I was determined to locate a restaurant that not only offered good food with a view, but also one whose menu featured a number of local Santorini specialties. We found this in Assyrtico Wine Restaurant. You might recognize the name Assyrtiko, as it’s one of Santorini’s best-known wines; however, the restaurant is actually spelled Assyrtico.
The masterminds behind this innovative venture are two of the best chefs on Santorini. Nikos Pouliasis from Koukomavlos and Vasilis Zaharakis from Nichteri joined forces to create Assyrtico Wine Restaurant, offering a creative take on some traditional Santorini dishes.
And the view is pretty amazing. Assyrtico is located up a set of stairs where you are met with a beautiful arched balcony that looks directly back to the caldera of Santorini. It was pretty windy the day we were there, but we braved the less than ideal weather to sit at one of the best tables.
Assyrtico offers an excellent Greek and International wine list. If you are interested in trying some of the best local varietals, the staff is quite knowledgeable. We opted with a P.D.O Assyrtiko from Hatzidakis Winery as recommended by our server.
Normally, I have trouble choosing between appetizers to try and this was my worst challenge yet. Assyrtico’s six different starters made it so hard to choose – we opted to forgo an entrée and try all six since they represented some of the best in local Santorini dishes.
Amuse Bouche – Homemade Breads and Hummus
We started off with a basket of homemade breads and hummus. The bread had local Santorini capers baked inside and the hummus was one of the best I’ve had in Greece.
Tomato Ball Pancake
Made with sundried tomatoes, spearmint and watermelon chutney with lime and feta cheese from Tripoli. Light in texture, the tomato ball pancakes were well balanced and the watermelon chutney with feta was a nice way to cut the richness from the pancake.
“Like” Zucchini Fritters
These are giant beans from Prespes and zucchini from Santorini, mixed with a sesame crust and served atop a curry avocado yogurt sauce. I was worried the sesame crust was going to overpower the delicate bean and zucchini flavors, but they worked well together. The curry sauce added some cool spice and a subtle hint of sweetness that was a nice finish.
If you try only one thing in Santorini, it should be fava. Fava beans are locally grown on the island and absolutely delicious. Typically served as a puree, Assyrtico’s version is served with pickled onions in forest fruits, mousse of smoked pork from Mani, capers and sage scented olive oil. This was easily my favorite dish – the fava puree was divine and the pickled onions were so flavorful, but not overpowering in the slightest. I could’ve eaten two, maybe three of these myself!
The saganaki appetizer at Assyrtico features Gruyere cheese from Mytilini Island aged in olive oil. It’s wrapped in a pastry crust and served with a chutney of Greek dry fruits marinated in Vinsanto wine. The chutney on this dish was a clear winner with both of us. The Gruyere was mild and the pastry crust not soggy in the least.
The kataifi fillo was one of the most stunning dishes we had that afternoon. It’s made with four types of Greek cheese, scented with mastic, mandarin sauce, and rose petals confit. It’s hard to argue with this dish just looking at it. It’s delicate – both in presentation and flavor. If you’ve never heard of mastic, it’s a Greek specialty product. Mastic is a “gum” found only in the mastic tree, which is grown in only one part of the world – the Greek island of Chios. Mastic is used in a variety of products, from culinary specialties to skin and beauty products made in Greece.
The last dish featured several Santorini products as well – sautéed squid, smoked mouse of white Santorinian eggplant, topped with an aioli sauce with cuttlefish ink and seaweeds. At first glance, the seaweed and the thick cuttlefish ink may be a turn off to some, but don’t skip this one. The squid was perfectly prepared and the white eggplant mousse was sublime. The seaweed and cuttlefish ink were perfect accompaniments for this appetizer and had we still been hungry, I would’ve been tempted to order another Santorini Bruschetta.
Due to Santorini’s landscape of volcanic ash, there are no natural trees and very few plants, making local food products somewhat of a rarity. Items like fava beans, tomatoes, and certain grape varietals thrive in volcanic soil, helping earn the island an excellent reputation within the gastronomic community. Santorini’s fava bean production is so respected, it has been granted P.D.O. (Protected Designation of Origin) status.
Prices at Assyrtico are reasonable, especially as compared to similar restaurants along the “waterfront”. Appetizers range from 8 euros to the most expensive at 11.50 euros (as of May 2014). Assyrtico’s main courses looked amazing as well but we obviously didn’t have near enough room to try one nor the desserts sadly. We definitely plan to return again and try the chefs’ individual restaurants as well.
Φηρά, Σαντορίνη (Fira, Santorini)
84700, Ελλάδα (84700, Greece)
Phone: +30 22860 22463,
+30 22860 34255
This is the first in a series of upcoming posts from Our Tasty Travel’s 23 day tour of the Mediterranean on Holland America’s MS Noordam. Follow the hashtag #OTTMED14 on Twitter and Instagram for more yummy photos and social media recaps from our incredible adventure of the local culinary culture in many parts of the region.