Traditional Greek cuisine is a country-style simple cuisine. It has had many influences during the centuries from ancient Greek, to middle eastern and turkish, and regionally also (especially the islands) Spanish, Italian and Southern French. At its best (usually found at selected homes and rarely in restaurants) it can be pleasant and very few non-Greeks would dislike it.
Reality alas is harsher: When it comes to eating out (restaurants, tavernas etc) the quality of food is from mediocre to bad with few notable exceptions. One reason is that for the last two generations the culinary aptitude of the average Greek fell well below zero. Experience suggests that some small restaurants, where the "mother" cooks daily local dishes are the best places to eat on the island. One can find in later years a variety of "european" or "pseudo-Italian" restaurants. These are expensive places which typically have a nice/luxurious atmosphere, usually good ingredients but where the cooking art is in most cases simply unacceptable. Some exceptions may also exist.
The list is arranged into an alphabetic order by name (spelled with latin characters) of the restaurant. It contains personal opinions, that are dated.
This is a small unpretentious taverna in Falassarna port where Mrs Katerina cooks, for lunch and dinner. The choices are few: Greek salad, absolutely fresh fish and octopus (simply the best I ever had). The fish used to be "balades" (a fish living around 200 m depth, a cousin of the Dentex), fished daily by Katerina's sons, but now that demand is high, they also buy other high-quality fish. Sometimes, you can get fish soup if you order it a day or so in advance. For dessert there is "pitarakia" with honey and/or fruit. You eat under the Tamarind trees near the sea, which is a nice experience. The extra bonus is a superb view of the sunset, if you are around the appropriate time. This place now is known and you must reserve in advance.
<E. Kiritsis, July 2017>
This is a modern taverna, housed in a rustic house in the tiny village of Ano Stalos, just outside of Aghia Marina, 10 km away from Chania. The place is very popular and the clientele consists of middle class families (mostly). The cuisine is traditional Cretan and is mostly done well. The kalitsounia with "malaka" ( a local soft cheese of the mozarella type but from ewe's or goat's milk) are superb, those with onions very good, excellent stuffed zuchini flowers and grape-leaves. There are several fried innard dishes that are interesting but the frying is not optimal in my opinion. The white wine by the pitcher was very interesting. The service was not bad. Not for the faint at heart!
<E. Kiritsis, Oct. 2001>
This is an old restaurant close to Chania, overlooking the Souda gulf, and it has admittedly a superb night view of the gulf. Many rich and famous must have eaten here if we believe the introduction in the menu. The restaurant serves traditional Cretan cuisine and it does it well. I had very fragant dolmades (stuffed grape-leaves), excellent cuttlefish with wild fennel (one of the best recipes of cretan cuisine in my opinion) and nice kalitsounia with wild greens (a bit oily though). The lamb with stamnagathi ( a local, slightly bitter wild green) was also very good. The bread served was not good however. The wine by the pitcher is honorable, made in the Jerez (sherry) style. Finally, the service is exemplary
<E. Kiritsis, Apr. 2000>
This is a new upscale restaurant, in the old Port of Chania that deserves to become well known if not already. We tried for starters the three mushroom dish (superbly cooked and flavorful) and the yellowtail (μαγιάτικο in greek, seriola dumerilii) tartar smoked in sage smoke (superb taste although salty and spicy hot, both diminishing the experience).
For main course I tried the lamb osso-bucco with risotto (excellent meat, superb truffle-flavored risotto). My partner had the pork shank with potato puree. Although the puree was fine, the meat was a bit dry (surprising for a piece that is suposed to be full of collagen) and the taste of the pork meat was a bit off. We also had a green salad with grilled manouri cheese
(suprerbly and subtly grilled). The salad dressing had a balanced taste but was too much in quantity.
The wine list is spectacular even by european standards, the prices mostly correct, and it brims with good and insightful selections of both Greek and European wines.
They serve also about 20 wines by the glass. We had a Protos Verdejo from Ribera del Duero, an Argyros Santorini and an Aglianico all excellent. For the ending, we were also offered a Banuyls by Chapoutier. Wine glasses and service were impeccable.
Although there is still room for improvement, the place is way ahead anything else I tasted in Chania in the last few years. It is recommended.
<E. Kiritsis, January. 2017>
A very good restaurant, in the old city serving local and Asia Minor food. The Imam-Baildi (eggplant) is a must.
<E. Kiritsis, March. 2011>
This is a fish taverna, by the water in the suburb of Tabakaria/Halepa, east of Chania.
Here you can eat good fish and other greek specialities near the water. This is by now well known and you need to reserve sometimes days in advance.
<E. Kiritsis, January. 2016>
The following restaurants were recommended by Kostis Galanis, the talented
winemaker of Manoussakis Winery. I have not tried them yet.
This restaurant has tradition Cretan cuisine from the Sfakia region in the south. It may be closed in the summer.
This is definitely the best restaurant in Crete. It does a cuisine that marries the traditional with the inventive, and is the only restaurant on the island I know where the inventive cuisine is successful. The quality of service is exemplary and at the level of good european restaurants. We had a squid, legumes and green's salad that was excellent despite the fact that the squid somehow was overpowered by the rest. Grilled shrimp with avocado in a fine citrus saucethat was very good. The "Gamopilafo" (traditional dish translated as "marriage rice pilaf", a main fare at marriages on the island) was excellent, although it would be better if somewhat less acid. The inventive moussaka, with a yogurt based toping instead of bessamel, and zuchinni instead of potatoes, was very tasty and definitely better than the traditional recipe. The seafood liguini, a constant source of dissapoinment in Greek restaurants was superb: from ingreedients, to balance, to flavors everything rimed perfectly. Finally preserved sweet fruits were served with a sweet yogurt mousse. The balance would have been better if the yogurt was acid. The place has an extensive wine list featuring about 250 different Greek wines. The selection is excellent. We asked for wine by the glass, and the sommelier ( a real one!) allowed us to choose any of the wines of the list. I do not know many places around the world that they would do this (at a reasonable price) Moreover, we were offered to taste for free two complimentary glasses of wine. The prices are correct for the quality. We paid for the dishes mentioned (two starters, three main courses, and two glasses of wine), 73 Euros in total.
Although there is room for improvement, this place is way ahead of the rest of the restaurants on the island. It is a must.
<E. Kiritsis, Oct 2011>
This is hailed by many as the best restuarant in Rethymnon. When we arrived, we thought we entered in a disco, where the noise of the people (locals), was covered only by music beyond 90 decibel. In the beginning we thought we made a mistake, but we were persuaded that we were in the right place. We asked if the music could be made somewhat less loud, and to this they complied, although now the noise of the people talking become dominant. We realized that this is more of a bar, rather than restaurant, with about ten tables for eating. It is positioned next to the sea, just outside Rethymno, and it is made all around from glass, providing a breathtaking view at the stormy sea smashing on the rocks. For starters, the green salad with balsamico was a major dissapointement: very salty, and it was obvious that a part of the greens must have been in a previous salad, as they were soaked in the dressing. The grilled kalamari was good, but the mustard sauce accompanying it completely out of place. The shrimp risotto was very good to excellent, and the giant grilled prawns tasty, accompanied with some boring vegetables. The dessert was galaktoboureko with vanilla ice cream. Both were too sweet and definitely below average. The wine list is not enormous, but well chosen. We had two glasses of wine and we were satisfied. The service was very eager, but not as refined. The prices are more or less correct: we paid 65 euros for food and the two glasses of wine. In summary, I can understand that this place is highly regarded by the locals, but I would not recomend it to a fine gourmet. It is however a great place to have a drink, watching the sea.
<E. Kiritsis, Oct 2011>