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Friday, September 15, 2006

Diethnes Greek Restaurant, Sydney

lambs brains innards

Lambs brains. Until recently, they made me shudder. My earliest encounter with them had repulsion, my eight-year-old stomach churning as I watched my Mother and sister enthusiastically chomp down a plate of them together. The brains had been steamed as is, a morbid haul of creamy-grey cooked cerebellums.

But then a lot of things are disgusting when you're a child. Hated oysters; now I love them. Hated blue cheese; now, the stinkier, the better. Hated ginger; now I just can't get enough.

diethnes interior

On a cool winter-like evening, we headed to Diethnes in Pitt Street, a sentimental favourite amongst many Sydneysiders, and proudly lauded as one of the longest-running Greek restaurants in Sydney.

Tucked down in a basement, Diethnes is a timewarp back to the 1970s. Mustard yellow tablecloths with matching vinyl chairs, floral bulb light fittings and mock Corinthian columns set the flashback scene.

wine glass

After some deliberation and debate, we eventually give in and order the $39 set menu. It's a collection of offerings that seems to satisfy most of our Mediterranean cravings:

Set Menu: $39.00 per person
Tarama
Tzatziki

Dolmades
Spinach Pie
Cheese Triangles
Haloumi
Greek Salad

Calamari
Octopus
Moussaka
Baked lamb
Sweet served with coffee or tea


dips and dolmades
Tzatziki, dolmades stuffed vine leaves and taramosolata dip

Dolmades are plump cigars of lemony rice, not as sour as some, which is just the way I like it. The tzatziki dip of cucumber, yoghurt and garlic is light but somewhat punchy, the taramosalata is fragrant with the delightful saltiness of fish roe.

greek salad
Greek salad

The Greek salad is generously scattered with fetta and littered with shiny black Kalamata olives.

egg and lemon soup
Avgolemono homemade chicken, egg and lemon soup $5.50

One person in our group of hungry foodies can't resist the avgolemono, that traditional Greek favourite of chicken soup mixed with beaten egg yolks and generous squeezes of lemon. It's a mild version that is not as lemony as I've had before, but it's simple and nourishing in a wholesome homemade way.

lambs brains
Lambs brains fried served with salad $16.90

I, of course, have to put in a special request for the lambs brains, which are battered and deep-fried to a tempting golden brown. There is some trepidation by more than a few people in our group and I dissect mine for a photo shoot before I take my first adult bite.

I like it. Perhaps the batter helps, but the brains themselves are creamy, smooth and remind me of cooked oysters with their butteriness and richness of flavour.

So now I can add crumbed lambs brains to my list of late night cravings.

spanakopita
Spanakopita

We continue our set banquet with a square of spanakopita, a disappointing soggy mouthful, especially with my recent homemade effort still fresh in my palate memory. This is followed by cheese triangles in flaky golden baked filo pastry, and pan-fried slabs of haloumi that squeak unrelentingly against your teeth.

eggplant
Fried eggplant with garlic sauce

The kitchen has run out of moussaka so we are offered an alternative of fried eggplant slices with a pasta dish to follow later on. The discs of eggplant are sensational: lightly floured and fried so they are crisp on the surface, but soft, sweet and squishy within. The garlic sauce that accompanies them is positively potent. It is intense with the heat of garlic and matches the flavour of eggplant well.

calamari
Calamari

The calamari is another winner. It's lightly dusted with flour and deep-fried, in the style of the salt-and-pepper calamari at your favourite Chinese restaurant. The calamari is tender and the golden crunch of batter... ahhh... who can resist.

octopus
Grilled octopus

Octopus can be a tricky beast when it comes to the kitchen, but these tentacles are super tender. By this point, we are already struggling and counting down the number of dishes waiting to emerge.

pasticcio
Home made pasticcio
Tubular spaghetti mixed with bolognaise and topped with bechamel


I'm not a fan of the pasticcio, which is heavy with pasta tubes and what tastes like a watery bolognaise sauce. However by this point we can't eat much anyway as our stomachs bloat to new levels of buoyancy.

roast lamb
Roast lamb
Tender baked lamb with lemon and oregano jus


Our final main is roast lamb Greek-style, the banquet's climatic slow-cooked masterpiece. The meat is dark, aromatic with the scent of oregano, and it flakes away with melting succulency. There are groans around the table that fluctuate between delight and gastric pain. I groan that that I foolishly ate anything for the entire week prior.

galaktoboureko
Galaktoboureko custard slice

Dessert is for a separate stomach though, however the slice of galaktoboureko--one of my favourite Greek desserts--is soggy, bland and devoid of the magic that comes with eggy custard, flaky filo and sticky sweet syrup.

Greek coffee

An espresso cup of gritty Greek-style coffee completes the evening, and we roll out the door replete but happy.

Hearty taverna-style food that always pleases. And you don't even need a lambs brain to tell you that.

diethnes

Diethnes Greek Restaurant
336 Pitt Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9267 8956

Lunch Mon - Sat 12pm to 3pm
Dinner Mon - Wed 5.30pm to 9.30pm
Dinner Thu - Sat 5.30pm to 10.00pm

$3 surcharge per person on public holidays
Licensed (no BYO)

12 comments - Add some comment love

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posted by Helen (AugustusGloop) on 9/15/2006 11:52:00 pm


12 Comments:

  • At 9/16/2006 6:21 am, Blogger Abster said…

    Roasted lamb, Greek coffee, custard slice, grilled octopus... The dishes look so tasty!

    I'm afraid I might not be as adventurous as you are with the lamb brains though...

     
  • At 9/16/2006 8:53 pm, Blogger PiCkLeS said…

    oh gosh...i take my hat off to you! your much braver than i. But i must say that you have left me curious.

     
  • At 9/16/2006 11:05 pm, Blogger thanh7580 said…

    I love pigs brains and usually have it in soups with lots of Chinese medicinal herbs, but have never tried lambs brains. The amount looks too overwhelming though. A small serve as an entree would be enough for me I think. The rest of the food looks very nice though, especially the tender roast lamb.

     
  • At 9/17/2006 12:54 am, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Abster - It was great. Too bad I couldn't eat more of it.

    The lambs brain was good. I'll always try anything once.

    Hi Pickles - I think crumbed is definitely the way to start with lambs brains. You should try some, although they're not often on restaurant menus--you'll just have to head to Diethnes.

    Hi thanh7580 - I've never tried pigs brains, although I don't mind the pigs blood at yumcha. Sounds intriguing.

    I did share the plate of lambs brains with everyone but I agree, I'm not sure I would've been able to finish off the whole plate of them.

    The roast lamb was so tender. I just wish I hadn't been so full by the time it came around.

     
  • At 9/17/2006 4:50 am, Blogger Atalanta said…

    Hi AG,

    Hmm... I still can't get myself to eat lamb brains, but I think if I had a choice, deep fried brains would seem like a better choice than boiled ones!

    So now throwing of plates at this Greek restaurant? My friends have been telling me that at some Greek restaurants, you get to break plates. I am not sure of the history or reason behind that tradition.

    Also wanted to say that I've been really enjoying your blog - you update it so often, so I am always looking forward to checking it everyday. Thanks for sharing!

     
  • At 9/17/2006 1:22 pm, Anonymous Belinda said…

    You haven't had real spanakopita until you have had my MIL's.........and for blatant self promotion, when are you swinging by our way again huh?

     
  • At 9/17/2006 5:07 pm, Anonymous FFichiban said…

    haro!
    the only time ive tried lamb brains was at a french restaurant and it wasnt too bad mayb a bit too strong for me tho
    i do enjoy chicken brains and pig brains ^^ but havent had in ages
    and i so wanna try that dessert! looks so scrumptious!

     
  • At 9/17/2006 11:34 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Atalanta - I have indulged in a little plate breaking at Greek restaurants. It does involve unvarnished clay plates, and yes it is rather chaotic and fun.

    As for the history of plate breaking, it seems the most likely explanation is to ward off evil spirits. More info is available here. There's also an article about its decline due to compensation fears here. A sad sign of our times.

    Glad you're enjoying GrabYourFork. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment. I do appreciate it!

    Hi Belinda - Ooh now you're tempting me. I keep meaning to head back. I'm still marvelling over the blissful olive oil ice cream.

    Hi FFichiban - All this talk of brains. It's mental! =)

    Galaktoboureko is delicous when freshly baked.

     
  • At 9/18/2006 6:41 am, Blogger Reb said…

    you told me there was lots of food - but this is really out of control! A mammoth eating effort.

     
  • At 9/18/2006 9:29 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Reb - See, I wasn't exaggerating. It was crazy amounts of food!

     
  • At 9/19/2006 3:48 pm, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

    Yes, the lamb is to die for. I think that was the night I started to eat meat again. All those years wasted on vegies.

     
  • At 9/19/2006 9:22 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said…

    Hi Veruca Salt - All that catching up on iron intake to do! There's no time like the present...!

     

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