48 Klefton and Armatolon
Tel: 30 210 641 1082
Cypriot-born chef Christoforos Peskias is equal parts magician and technician. The food at this lounge-y, recently renovated eatery remains solidly Aegean, delicious, and fresh—but there's science behind his creations. Peskias (who trained with Ferran Adriá) grew up hunting hare and making stifado with them; now he carefully stews them under vacuum at exactly 154ºF so as to properly caramelize the onions. The veggies that accompany his popular pork souvlaki are so thinly sliced they could have been cut with a laser. And toppings you can choose on the signature peinirli—like doughy, open-faced calzones—include pancetta, quail eggs, truffles, sweetbreads and sea urchins. The interior is suitably futuristic and monochromatic—it is, after all, part of the Ileana Tounta art gallery. Advance reservations are a good idea.
Closed June through August. Closed Sundays September through May.
4 Lysikratos Street
Tel: 30 210 322 7971
If you are a famous foreigner, or like to imagine that people think you are, this is one of the places you'll eat in Athens. The setting, in a restored neoclassical villa, including an interior garden, in the otherwise gastronomically challenged Plaka area, is attractive, and the food, a mix of traditional and nouvelle Greek, is excellent. (To get off to a happy start, try meatballs in ouzo-laced tomato sauce.) Many of Daphne's diners are so eager to see and be seen down in the garden area that the few tables out front, which are considered to be the least socially desirable, have some of the best views of the Parthenon in Athens. So luckily you'll be seated here if you show up on a weekend without a reservation.
Open daily 7:30 pm to 1 am.
Tel: 30 210 800 1402
That mouthful means "flavors of designated origin" (like D.O.C. on an Italian wine label), and it translates into mouthfuls of divinely fresh, beyond-authentic food from chef Jim Pissias. Every item arrives on the menu direct from its (named) source, and arrives on your plate intact, rather than mushed into overcooked stews. Dishes include fresh-grilled sardine fillets served with baked tomatoes and a caper-parsley sauce; fava beans from Santorini served with carmelized spring onions, olives, and mint-lime sauce. The restaurant occupies a gracious, antique-bedecked 19th-century Kifissia villa.
Open Monday through Saturday 8 pm to 11:30 pm.
7 Navarhou Apostoli
Tel: 30 210 331 6767
This trendy place in Psyrri has remained steadily popular. Chef Yiannis Baxevanis is doing great things with horta (Cretan wild greens), regional cheeses, and—unfortunately, but in this case forgivably—foams. This is probably the only place in the capital you'll get to eat spiny chicory, or see calamari, spinach, beets, and berries on the same plate—and enjoy eating it. The scarlet-and-yellow space with pictures of pots on the walls (a hytra is a traditional stew vessel) is comfy despite its modern spin.
Closed June through September.
4 Diogenous Street
Tel: 30 210 322 0666
One of Plaka's oldest tavernas, serving since 1932, Platanos is just what you want when you set out to eat unpretentious, grilled, and unreconstructed Greek dishes (try the lamb with artichoke, and the eggplant salad). It has a bougainvillea-covered terrace, slightly surly waiters, bargain prices, and house-made retsina (along with even stronger stuff).
5 Pyronos Street
Tel: 30 210 756 4021
The setting alone would make this upmarket restaurant a pleasant place to dine, especially in the courtyard on summer evenings. Away from the rush of central Athens, Spondi is in a quiet residential neighborhood, a few steps from the Marble Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held. But for $200 or so a person, you want more than atmosphere. You want Arnaud Bignon, who trained under some of France's top chefs, to impress you with his take on international fusion, a take that has earned Spondi two Michelin stars and a long-running reputation as arguably the best restaurant in Greece. Go for the tasting menu; let Bignon bring on the foie gras, the scallops, the cod, and the duck; and decide for yourself.—Bob Payne
Open daily 8 to 11:45 pm.
80 Piraeus Street
Tel: 30 210 522 8400
Seafood legend Lefteris Lazarou won the Michelin race, gaining the country's first star for Greek food—and rightly so, say the hordes clamoring for tables at this wood-floored, white-walled dining room (belonging to Hotel Eridanus) or a prized one on the terrace overlooking the Acropolis. Lazarou rises before dawn to source his psari (baked seafood dishes) and treats them in ways that veer into classical French territory without ever leaving Greece. Typical are cuttlefish risotto with caramelized garlic and bay leaf, and grouper with wild greens braised in egg-lemon sauce. Meat dishes are fewer, but just as amazing, such as his take on patsa, the workingman's tripe soup, served in a martini glass.
Opens Mondays through Saturdays at 8:30 pm.