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Monday, September 12, 2011

Xanthi, Sydney

EDIT: Xanthi has closed

The best part about Xanthi? For me, it's the view into the kitchen. The three windows at the entrance to this slick new eatery may all be square, but it's just as fun as Play School, with an equally fascinating scene unrolling within each one.


Xanthi is the big budget move by David Tsirekas, head chef and owner of the now-closed Perama, a Greek standout and locals' favourite in the Portuguese enclave of Petersham. He's now the proud owner of Xanthi, located in the recently launched level six dining precinct at Westfield Sydney.

Inside Xanthi

The old Perama was small and noisy, filled with a ruckus of patrons who would clunk their way up and down the steep wooden stairs. Xanthi is plush and sumptuously elegant by comparison. Hanging lanterns, tapestry bench coverings and mosaic tiles add a Byzantine air.  Draped silk curtains create intimacy, gathered toward a large white column so it feels like we're sitting beneath a gigantic mushroom. It's remarkably quiet too, despite the restaurant being almost full.

Xanthi's location in Greece

Windows into the kitchen at Xanthi

While David has kept several mainstay dishes from Perama, Xanthi represents an opportunity for him to offer more than what you'd get at your local Greek restaurant. 

Making pork belly baklava with fresh filo pastry

Freshly made filo pastry is a big part of the new menu, handrolled and baked fresh to order. The pastry is stretched until paper-thin, then filled with seven different savoury variations or turned into five types of dessert.

Pig on a spit

The spit is another drawcard. David promises a full lamb, goat or pig roasted on the spit each day. The vertical spit spins in lazy circles with portions available in 250g or 500g serves.

Ouzo trolley

And you can't have a Greek restaurant without ouzo. The ouzo trolley boasts twenty types of ouzo, all available by the glass.

Pickled octopus

The idea is that patrons can order ouzo with a full meal, or share a few plates of ouzomezedakia, the Greek equivalent of tapas.

Makedonikos Tsipouro

After farewelling the old Perama with a final group hurrah, we were keen to find out what the new Xanthi offered, which is how a party of seventeen assorted food bloggers came together for a triple birthday celebration.

Groups of ten or more must order the $55 banquet, a set menu that includes:
  • three dips
  • greek salad
  • your choice of three ouzomezedakia sharing plates
  • one apo tin plastira savoury pastry
  • lamb skaras 
  • caramel baklava ice cream
  • sweet bougatsa.

Tsipouro mixed with ice and water

David was quick to kick off the party with complimentary bottles of tsipouro for the table, assuring us that drinking it would stimulate our appetites. At about 45%, tsipouro is potent stuff, best mixed with ice and diluted with water. When water is added, the tsipouro takes on a cloudy appearance. Even then it still tastes like lighter fluid.

Vergina $8.50

And of course there's always someone who will order a drink purely based on the name and a couple of suggestive winks.

Greek salad

Our food arrived as a staggered banquet, starting with a vibrant Greek salad -- punchy with bursts of salted feta and glossy Kalamata olives -- and creamy dips of tarama smoked cod roe and tangy tzatziki yoghurt.

Tarama salted and cured cod roe dip

Tzatziki dip

Honey peppered figs

Honey peppered figs are plump and syrupy with balsamic vinegar and spices, although a touch too sickly sweet for me.

Hot smoked eggplant dip

Much more of a winner is the hot smoked eggplant dip, a heartwarming muddle of smoky eggplant puree livened with coriander, cumin and a gentle squeeze of lemon. David also folds through bechamel and grated kasseri for extra richness.

Barbecued haloumi cheese
Locally produced Cypriot-style haloumi cheese barbecued and served with fresh lemon and oregano

David is channeling his inner Greek yaya, or grandma, as we find additional dishes sent through from the kitchen. Barbecued haloumi cheese is intensely salty, but the locally made Cypriot-style cheese has a softer texture than the squeaky ones you find in the supermarket. The cheese has been simply char-grilled and dusted with oregano. We annoint it generously with lemon.

David Tsirekas in the open kitchen

Herbed skordalia croquettes

Herbed skordalia croquettes are surprisingly light and delicate, each parcel filled with a garlicky mashed potato mixed with mint, dill and celery leaf, then rolled in polenta and breadcrumbs and deep-fried until golden.

Sheftalies barbecue Cypriot-style spiced pork meatballs

My favourite ouzomezedakia is the sheftalies, Cypriot-style pork meatballs that are chunky with meat, and littered with translucent squares of sweet onion. The meatballs have been wrapped in caul fat, quite a thick version so there's still a thin layer of skin on the surface after the meatball has cooked through.

Fried veal sweetbreads

Crumbed veal sweetbreads are my other weakness, these precious thymus glands fried quickly into addictive crunchy-versus-soft delights.

Prawn and scallop bougatsa

We're only supposed to have one bougatsa, but David sends out two. And two more for our nut-free diner. The prawn and scallop bougatsa contains almonds, we're told, a creamy sauce of coriander, lemon and cumin holding fat chunks of prawn and scallop. The handmade filo pastry is immediately noticeable -- flaky and crisp without any soggy or raw sections from something pre-made. It's also clean on the tongue, without any oily or fatty aftertaste.

Spinach and feta bougatsa (nut-free alternative)

Spinach and feta bougatsa is a pretty vegetarian scroll that I actually enjoy more than the prawn and scallop version.

Pork belly baklava

The signature pork belly baklava has been revised, a necessary adaptation with the use of fresh filo at Xanthi. David confesses that his wife is determined to set up a Facebook page to "Bring back the original pork belly baklava".

The original version looked more like a traditional baklava, with layers of pastry sandwiched around shredded pork belly and pistachio. On top rested a tile of crackling. Version 2.0 is more like a spring roll, a log filled with pork belly and date and pistachio that is served in thick slices.

There's more meat and less pastry in this adaptation, and while we found the crackling a little more chewy than crunchy, the date and mastic sauce is an interesting addition.

Lamb fricasse bougatsa (nut-free alternative)

The nut-free alternative is the lamb fricasse bougatsa, filled with tender shreds of lamb from the spit.

Lamb and pork from the spit

By the time our main arrives, we're struggling. The banquet menu lists lamb skaras as the set main but David swaps this with meat from the spit instead. We receive servings of both lamb and pork, a little dry in parts but easily fixed with a squeeze of lemon. The potatoes are perfect - not overly crisp but deliciously soft and fluffy inside.

Garden of Aphrodite $13.50

We're spoilt with two extra desserts, the arrival of the Garden of Aphrodite eliciting a chorus of approving coos. It's extraordinarily pretty to look at, an assortment of flower petals nestled around two two miniaure towers of sheep milk pudding. Thin slices of golden beetroot are an intriguing inclusion, supported by the thick brushstroke of raspberry and beetroot gel.

Sokolata Castania $14

Sokolata Castania is the bigger crowd-pleaser, a dome of chocolate mousse that is light and airy. Sour cherry sorbet provides a welcome tang and strands of chocolate pashmak add texture and fun.

Greek coffee

Salted caramel peanut and banana sweet bougatsa

The banquet includes a sweet bougatsa and we're served the salted caramel peanut and banana version. It's not as sweet as you'd expect, filled with a thick puree of banana and whole peanuts that have gone a little soggy so they taste boiled.

Caramel baklava ice cream

Caramel baklava ice cream is another Perama favourite, layers of vanilla bean ice cream wrapped around a core of pistachio baklava filling and caramel sauce.

It's been a long night of feasting but surely yaya wouldn't want it any other way.

View Larger Map
Xanthi Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Westfield Sydney - Level 6
Corner Pitt Street Mall and Market Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9232 8535

Opening hours:
Sunday to Thursday 8am-11pm
Friday and Saturday 8am-midnight

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Westfield Sydney - Becasse Chef's Table
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Westfield Sydney - Quarter Twenty One Cooking School
Westfield Sydney - Level 5 Stage One Tour
Westfield Sydney - Level 5 Stage Two Tour
26 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/12/2011 01:51:00 am


  • At 9/12/2011 2:35 am, Anonymous L said…

    I too would like to request the return of the original pork belly baklava! Where do I sign? Went to Xanthi a couple of weeks ago and was a little disappointed to find they had changed the recipe. The filo was wet and dense and the crackling almost broke our teeth. The truffle and mushroom moussaka was still spot on though. Hopefully these are teething problems and will be corrected with time.

  • At 9/12/2011 3:02 am, Anonymous chopinandmysaucepan said…

    I'm not a fan of pork belly with filo pastry but would definitely try the greek lamb on the spit on days when it's available.

  • At 9/12/2011 5:12 am, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    Ahhhh reliving memories that I didn't get to fully enjoy :( It's funny that David's wife wants to get a petition running for the old pork baklava, I'll hop on that bandwagon when that Facebook group gets started up :)

    I really LOVE that chocolate mousse dessert!

  • At 9/12/2011 7:25 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Must try the different bougatsas here! I agree with the chef's wife: bring back the original pork belly baklava. The new one is a little too meaty and a little dry when I had it.

  • At 9/12/2011 7:37 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Wow! The pork belly baklava sounds interesting. Xanthi seems like an awesome place to visit.

  • At 9/12/2011 8:56 am, Anonymous Apple @Polkadotsandchopsticks said…

    Pork belly baklava. Genius. It sounds amazing!

  • At 9/12/2011 9:38 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Oh that smokey eggplant dip, I could happily polish off a gigantic bowl of that stuff in one go!

  • At 9/12/2011 9:53 am, Blogger Mel said…

    I've got a shopping trip planned in the city this weekend and am struggling as to where I should lunch in Westfield...Xanthi seems hard to resist - the pork on the spit = mouthwatering!

  • At 9/12/2011 9:54 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a feast! Love the looks of the lamb & pork meat from the spit.

  • At 9/12/2011 9:55 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    What a feast! I had a lot of the same dishes when I went, including the pork belly baklava, but I obviously need to try more of them!

  • At 9/12/2011 10:05 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Serious food memories being roused here, and it seems that everyone is a fan of the original pork belly baklava. That eggplant dip is extraordinary and I do like the inclusion of the crisp breads.

  • At 9/12/2011 10:15 am, Anonymous OohLookBel said…

    LOL, I was there on Saturday and the restaurant mentioned that they were hosting a group of foodbloggers that night. The food's great, isn't it? And such a fantasic atmosphere for smart-casual dining.

  • At 9/12/2011 10:18 am, Anonymous Billy @ A Table For Two said…

    Now I know what I've missed out. :( What a feast, Sokolata Castania looks delicious!

  • At 9/12/2011 11:55 am, Anonymous rockahenry said…

    holy moly thats one epic feast.

    the opening pic made me think a new northern chinese place had opened up though :P

  • At 9/12/2011 12:18 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    that was one incredible dinner and im still dreaming about the chocolate mousse hot damn i didnt want to share!

  • At 9/12/2011 12:30 pm, Blogger Sarah D said…

    nom nom nom, i am so sad the original Perama closed cause i live around the corner but think a trip to Xanthi will be soon on the agenda.... :-)

  • At 9/12/2011 1:49 pm, Anonymous David said…

    still working on perfecting the pork belly..have to stick to my vow not to use packet filo ever again...stay tuned..and thanks for the kind and reflective words...thanks for a fun night

  • At 9/12/2011 2:22 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Golly! From the first photo, I never would have expected the delicate and pretty desserts that finished the post! Not expected... but definitely wanted.

  • At 9/12/2011 3:54 pm, Anonymous Nic@diningwithastud said…

    I cant wait to go to Xanthi! We missed out on going to Perama so will hit up this place ASAP :)

  • At 9/13/2011 1:16 pm, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    thats a crazy amount of ouzo there. the desserts look soooo pretty, esp garden of aphrodite

  • At 9/13/2011 3:36 pm, Anonymous Sara - Belly Rumbles said…

    Oh my goodness what a feast! Can't wait to try out Xanthi.

  • At 9/14/2011 3:52 pm, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    Oh yes! My people are doing i even better this time! Great review helen...can't wait to check it out myslef soon!

  • At 9/16/2011 5:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Looking forward to trying out this place! Louise

  • At 9/26/2011 11:17 am, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    I'm all for the original version of the pork belly baklava. This was was nice too but it just wasn't on par.

    It was an awesome dinner all round, round being the operative word. Man was I ever full!

  • At 9/28/2011 11:06 pm, Blogger A Dessert Affair said…

    You have a picture of Mark Bouris in your third photo :)

    I was wondering why so many food bloggers were walking through the door all at once!


  • At 10/03/2011 9:14 pm, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    Good tiiimmmmeee!
    I have to second suze, I didn't want to share eitherrr!


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