Growing up in Zimbabwe, whenever we’d go visit my step great-grandmother, eating together was the norm — I mean literally as the children we’d sit in a circle and share a meal. It was always such a wonderful way to bond with cousins and the other neighbourhood kids. Like most traditions we often overlook in our own homes, eating together is definitely something that transcends location. This become even more apparent to me while dining at the Greek restaurant, Plaka in Menlyn Park Mall.
Yesterday, 12 September 2017, I was invited to share a meal with fellow media folks at this impeccable traditional modern Greek restaurant. Plaka has been in the food industry for 25 years and counting — with their refreshed look and menu, it would be crime to go anywhere else for authentic Greek cuisine. Angelo Haitas, the founder and owner of Plaka, spoke of how the restaurant is the heart-beat of Greece’s modern capital and being on the Northern and Eastern slopes of the Acropolis, it is also the old historical neighborhood of Athens. Essentially, this tapestry of traditional culture within a modern society is what Haitas is bringing to Plaka in South Africa.
You know how you make Greek salad at home to accompany your braai meat? I have bad news, what ever salad you’ve been making at home is an injustice compared to how an authentic Greek salad from Plaka tastes — absolutely delicious and remarkably fresh. As if the salad itself had not impressed me enough already, their halloumi cheese is to die for, absolutely divine. I kept telling everyone at the table that I had my fair share of bad or just OK halloumi in my life especially during the time I was vegetarian, but that Plaka halloumi cheese is definitely one for the books — best I ever had. Another noteworthy dish was most certainly the lamb kebab, by now, the balance of flavors in every dish is something I couldn’t overlook — how do the chefs also find that perfect balance? It’s incredible. However, one dish my palate is yet to get acquired to is the grilled octopus. I loved the flavor but the texture was a touch too chewy than I’m accustomed to.
Then there was this slight awkwardness around the table because we (or maybe just me) weren’t sure if the concept of eating together means a one course meal with different options, or if more was coming. This awkwardness quickly left as soon as it had arrived once the mains started rolling in. I’m talking lamb, chicken, grilled line fish, grilled prawns — the works! My favourite dish without a doubt was the lamb, yet again. Sweet baby Zeus, I have not tasted lamb that good in a very long time. It literally fell off the bone and tasted like “it’s alright, I’m ready to die now.” That great. I was hesitant to try the chicken because I thought “I have chicken all the time, what could be so different about this one?” Well, like most meals at Plaka, I quickly realized that you’ve either been cooking it wrong, or tasting a substandard version of it until you have it fresh from their kitchen. The only shame I experienced yesterday was the limitation of my stomach because really, I couldn’t have continued gracing my palate with more of their exquisite meals.
Dessert is always, ALWAYS, my favourite part of any dining experience, and let me tell you, there was not a smile on the table that did not confirm this as the desserts were brought in. Needless to say, the presentation itself got our mouths watering. As a photographer, there is always tension between the strong need to take the perfect images of the food, and simply grabbing a plate to indulge. Alas, you find a balance. My stomach’s limitations couldn’t allow for dessert space (the horror, I know, blame the lamb) — however, if the picture below doesn’t convince you to try it by any means necessary, then I suggest you take the drive to Plaka for your next meal and experience the whole shebang firsthand.
But while you wait for the clock to tick, have a look at their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook page to further entice your tastebuds on what you’ll be experiencing for your next meal. If the drive to Menlyn is a bit much for your liking, then visit the Cresta or Eastgate branches — you won’t regret it!