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  • Writer's pictureJoanneFoodTsang

Heraklion, Crete: Apiri Steps up Greek Cuisine with its Modern Intervention

When you think Greek cuisine cannot get any better with its mouthwatering salads and seafood, Apiri Greek_Eatery proves you wrong. Centred around the philosophy of simple, quality and fresh ingredients, Apiri takes Greek cuisine to new heights that is worthy of an international stage, and definitely some stars.

Shot from a window table at Apiri Greek_Eatery in Heraklion, Crete.

Located in a quiet corner just off the mains streets of Heraklion, Crete, Apiri Greek_Eatery silently stuns its diners with its sophisticated take on Greek cuisine which has ancient roots. Whilst the Cretan city of Chania usually appeals to most tourists with its stunning pink sand beaches, Apiri and the slower pace of Heraklion could very well be the reason to visit the slightly quieter capital city of the Greek island.

Apiri Greek_Eatery is an underrated gem that is missing a starry twinkle or two. It can very well be the reason for people to visit the quieter city of Crete.

Created in 2019 by Chef Stefanos Lavrenidis, Apiri is a wonder for anyone visiting Greece or Crete for the first time, or even anyone familiar with Greek cuisine. Lavrenidis' rich gastronomical background cultivated in star-studded restaurants, including Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck in the U.K. and Nicolai Nørregaard's Kadeau in Copenhagen, can be felt in Apiri. The food at Apiri hints to Blumenthal's dedication to multi-sensory eating and Nørregaard's respect for local, seasonal produce. Even the minimalist appearance of the restaurant has a slight Nordic note.


However, the Greek identity of Apiri stands strong. The food is distinctively Greek with its abundant use of olive oil, peppermint, thyme, goat cheeses, and lemon. The wine list also features natural Greek wines. Most memorably, Apiri preserves the generosity of Greek dining culture which sings through its portion sizes, and the complementary sweets and raki that come at the end of the meal. Apiri not only shines a limelight on Greek produce and cuisine, but also makes fine dining approachable and accessible - a feat worthy of great praise.

Lavrenidis has created a space where the best of Greek produce and cuisine can be accessibly found.

The food

Casually recommended to me by a local, I entered the restaurant without any expectations. Though, the moment warm slices of seeded, crusty bread were served with a saucer of thyme-infused olive oil, I knew I was in for a treat. This gut feeling was cemented the moment the large bowl of Greek Salad was served. The bright red cherry tomatoes peaked out from the pile of soft feta mounted atop a mix of fresh cucumber, soft onions, and sprigs of an unidentifiable edible plant. As you give the salad a mix, you'd notice flecks of fresh herbs lacing the golden olive oil and small discs of sliced spring onion gliding along. The salad simply glistens.


Needless to say, my mouth was watering well in advance. With a single bite, it was pure bliss. The freshness of the ingredients and of the herbs, the sweet tomatoes and refreshing cucumber, the slight bitterness from the edible plant were harmoniously brought together by the silky olive oil and creamy feta... divine. My companion and I were intoxicated.


It was also at this point that we realised our order of two starters and two mains were too much for us to handle, hungry as we may have been. The arrival of the second starter of tuna tartare that floated on top of a generous heap of dandelion greens made us even more sure of this fact. After a quick shy inquiry to the server, followed by a debate of which main to keep, we successfully managed to cut our order down and resumed our food-induced trance. Though, I have to confess, the sips of crisp white wine that carry a noticeable burn - classic of Cretan wines which are higher in alcohol content - did help us along in this intoxication.


Sea bream from the grill section of the Apiri Greek_Eatery menu.

The subtle bitterness of the boiled dandelion leaves pairs in flavour and texture with the billow of minced tuna fragranced by lime zest and fresh chives...its the best of land and sea in their simplest form on a dish. Before I can come fully out of this stupor, the main is served. Thin filets of sea bream lie coated in a translucent green-tinged sauce laced with edible seaweed, garnished by freshly chopped chives and dots of presumably yoghurt. Round croquets break up this mellow green landscape on the plate with its golden hue. Every bite of the flaky fish is a soft zingy one. Just when you think the textures on the plate are getting monotonous, the thin crisp shell of the croquet provides a slight change. The fish-packed croquet that has had its moisture removed from the frying process is almost pleading for the lemony sauce to be swabbed with it. The perfect combo.


As I write about these three dishes, I find myself being transported back to the trance I was in. They were that memorable. Yet, there was another moment to remember from this meal. When we finally finished savouring all the dishes and calmed the tingles on a very full stomach, we asked for the bill. Two small sweet bites and a flask of raki came to the table instead. The de facto dessert was another beauty: a nutty macaron-like base topped with a light vanilla custard. A two-bite chewy wonder. The raki had the smell of lychee but tasted like raisins on fire. With a shot of the 40% abv tipple, I was ready to float out of the restaurant and onto a soft bed for a nap.


Afterthoughts

It was a modern Greek experience that is hard to forget. Whilst the menu seems succinct, there are plenty dishes that I have yet to try at Apiri. Considering that a fraction of the menu is already this exquisite, I cannot imagine what the rest of the menu has to offer.


If you ever find yourself in Greece, I highly recommend a trip to Heraklion. Specifically, a trip to Apiri. In fact, why not just plan your next trip to Heraklion. That would be a solid plan.

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