There are hundreds of Greek restaurants all over Germany. They typically offer rustic settings and solid – but heavily Germanized – “Greek” food at affordable prices. The standard restaurant design includes light strings, small Greek statues and flags. The menus regularly use Greek glyph typography and would not be complete without offering Gyros, Souvlaki and Tzatziki. A massive Hercules platter or Wienerschnitzel at competitive prices will surely bring a satisfied smile to the face of the native German guest, who can wash down the food with Greek Ouzo or Retsina.
This concept has been so successful over the last decades that it has not only reinforced some existing clichés about the Greek culture, but has actually helped creating new ones.
Modern variations of Greek gastronomy are trendy, funky party places. Diners arrive in the early evening and enjoy a fairly authentic Greek food selection. Greek wine – amongst the popular Italian, French or German offerings – can be found on the wine list. Loud pop music is played throughout the meal, and by midnight crowds are dancing on the tables and throw paper towels by the handful, while an ultra-modern electronic version of Zorbas’ Sirtaki is played at full volume. While the food is a more modern and authentic expression of Greek cuisine, most guests find their way here because of the party and fun element. Perhaps this is a Germanized version of the Greek Zeitgeist?
Neither of the above though expresses nor displays the true evolution that has taken place in the Greek cuisine over the last years. A number of award winning restaurants exist in Greece and abroad where the food is prepared by using authentic, yet refined methods. In Munich, there has been a noticeable absence of such an alternative that naturally highlights the Modern Greek cuisine in a creative way by integrating the culinary traditional heritage of Greece.
Konstantin & FRIENDS is a noteworthy restaurant that opened just last week in the central district in Ludwigsvorstadt-Isarvorstadt in Munich to close that gap.
Owners Konstantin Kappos and Kirsten Janz have created a remarkable multi-functional location: At the heart is the restaurant where the finest Greek cuisine can be enjoyed in a modern, yet cozy and friendly setting. The menu consists of contemporary creations that use local products and are based on traditional cuisine. For example, the Santorini Fava is served with kiwi sauce, smoked eel mousse, wild island capers and roasted almonds. The wine list is remarkably all Greek and offers a thoughtfully selected variety of perfect food matching choices. Most grape varieties are indigenous, take a look at the wine list here (PDF).
Next to the restaurant’s eating area is a generous bar area where many Greek wines can be enjoyed by the glass. Cleverly, in addition to the “normal” 0.2 liter pour, a 0.1 option is also available.
Downstairs is an area for wine storage and an in house Gourmet shop where Greek food products – as well as Greek wines – can be purchased. Konstantin & Friends also offer a special early take away service for coffee, Greek yoghurt, cheese pies, sandwiches etc. from 7 am. Opening hours for the restaurant, bar and shop are 9 am to 1 am Monday through Saturday and 10 am through 3 pm on Sundays.
The place is beautifully designed. The amount of planning, attention to detail, and investment have paid off: It is elegant, stylish, has a strong identity and has the distinct trendiness that nowadays modern restaurants in Greece display. The most important factor for the unique concept is that no shortcuts were taken. The chef Nikos Pouliasis and the Sommelier are both Greek and moved to Germany just a few weeks ago. The wines were sourced in Greece, directly from the wineries. The importance of the opening of the restaurant was highlighted by the fact that both Sofia Perpera (Director Greek wine bureau North-America New Wines of Greece) and George Skouras (Domaine Skouras) flew in from Greece to show their support.
My personal impression is that Konstantin & FRIENDS has tremendous potential. If I were to compare their concept to other well known, respected and established places, Molyvos in New York or Dio Deka in San Francisco come to mind. Munich, you are in for a treat!