This is the most authentic dining experience in Greece: The tavern that the major foreign media extol | News about the Economy

Among unique travel experiences such as the Northern Lights in Norway, swimming in an oasis in Oman and walking in a forest in Japan is also the food in Dunia.

According to the New York Times and its special travel editors who submitted 55 proposals to the committee established for this very reason, the experience of a meal at the mountain tavern-restaurant of Chania is unique since “The island itself (s.s. Crete) constitutes one of the oldest continuously inhabited cultures in all of Europe. He has a crazy story and just going there and eating that food, the way he cooks it, it’s so honest.” What factors led the committee’s experts to include Dounia in their final 25 picks?

We went for the first time in the summer of 2013, after an adventurous search I must say, since on our way from Kissamos we first passed another Dragon, much closer to us, before we realized that Dounias was hidden in the mountainous Dragon of Keramion. Be that as it may, after a unique route through the Therisos gorge, we discovered the only restaurant on the island that described itself as a “slow food experience” as its signs said. And what an experience that was, really.


Outside the shop, on the street, two little children were playing with a goat and a small furry dog ​​with three legs. The children of Stelios and Eumorphilis Trilyrakis grew up and are growing up in and out of their parents’ restaurant in winter and summer – when they don’t have school – although today they are now three. There, on the side of the road, in front of the shop, in a self-made structure, four lit stoves were set up, cooking food hidden in ceramic vessels, covered. Or rather the three of them, because in the fourth, in an old-fashioned pan, dipped in golden olive oil, coarsely chopped potatoes were being fried. In this way, the way of the old women of the island who cooked everything with two sticks, the potatoes become essentially confit, as our French friends would say, crispy on the outside, incredibly, like a chestnut, honeyed inside. And it is these potatoes that cause table talk because each portion takes 45 minutes to be served and why some fresh customers wonder why Stelios mentions them in the list of dishes of the day with him commenting in unsurpassed style “don’t underestimate the potatoes sir”.

This is the most authentic dining experience in Greece: The tavern that the major foreign media praise

The experience of that day led me to write the first article about Dounias in a Greek culinary publication and many more since our visit there was obviously repeated. Alone or with friends or also with taste journalist friends we make the journey to Drakona with every visit to see our friends now, Stelios and Eumorphilis.

But apart from the fried potatoes, which for many, believe me, is the reason for the trip, what made us distinguish this restaurant from the rest of our favorites in Crete? Its honest authenticity, without any desire to impress, but with deep faith in the owner’s choices. Stelios Trilyrakis left the restaurants in Chania where he worked as a cook, took Eumorfili and they returned to his village. He chose to cook on natural fire, in stoves (wood-burning stoves), in the wood-fired oven and in the sideboards (a special ceramic structure, which holds the wood at its base and the cooking utensil is placed on top, clay pots in this particular case. Of course, there is electricity in the shop , and a commercial refrigerator to properly preserve the ingredients, but no, there is no freezer anywhere.

This is the most authentic dining experience in Greece: The tavern that the major foreign media praise

The food he cooks is strictly and exclusively seasonal, the raw materials come from his own crops and from neighboring producers. In the years that we have known each other, Stelios has been developing and enriching his production with the aim of absolute self-sufficiency. Cows of the brachykeratian -steppe- breed, the yidomuschara according to local folklore, graze on the mountainside, mauragani wheat and double barley are grown for the flour that gives the “heavy” breads and nuts of their own wood-fired oven, the milk from the goats (animals) are made into cheese or yogurt daily.

As a welcome to the table, ours at least, after we leave the order in their hands depending on what the chickadees have, a mountain salad with a unique composition arrives – in the village sense, but it cannot be called that because of the ingredients. Char-grilled potatoes, beets, courgettes, artichokes, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, herbs, everything is sweetly mixed, bringing to the table all the aromas of the earth at once, depending on the season of the visit. Together, freshly baked sourdough bread and hard cheese of their own production. And beer or wine, depending on the mood.

They always follow, in order of intensity, the oily ones. Stuffed, aubergines, sweet potatoes and pumpkin, green beans and broad beans, on their own or in a turlo with sourdough. And then we move on to the meats. Lambs, goats, ewes and goats and pork, with all the sweetness and sweetness of desperately slow cooking over wood. The flow of the serving is correct, without gaps, from the moment the first course arrives after “here we serve slow food, please be patient”. With real kindness but also with pride for the food that has been cooked in their kitchen.

This is the most authentic dining experience in Greece: The tavern that the major foreign media praise

The salad. Always of the season

This is the most authentic dining experience in Greece: The tavern that the major foreign media praise

Cauliflower, broccoli with cartilage

This is the most authentic dining experience in Greece: The tavern that the major foreign media praise

Vegetable dumplings in clay

This is the most authentic dining experience in Greece: The tavern that the major foreign media praise

Lamb with potatoes

This is the most authentic dining experience in Greece: The tavern that the major foreign media praise

Lamb on parchment paper

This is the most authentic dining experience in Greece: The tavern that the major foreign media praise

Pork cooked in orange juice

But is this only what made the experts define Dunia as a unique travel experience? No, of course. There, all modern culinary trends are a daily practice based on centuries of tradition. Nose to tail is a component of the dominant philosophy, since nothing is thrown away, everything is cooked, everything becomes delicious. Zero waste is a must, as waste is recycled, either to feed animals or to become compost. Foraging could only be a daily practice, with wild grasses, herbs and mushrooms going into the pots.

In the past, even our acquaintances had commented on Stelios’ slow hands, in a somewhat strange tone. I didn’t know then and I still don’t know now if you should, if there is a reason to explain to someone that the farmer-restaurateur is not in name a man of the land but in the literal sense and that “from the field to the plate” in Dunias remains the truest experience you can imagine. And that you can’t and shouldn’t have velvety hands to serve food that literally came out of your own hands from start to finish.

The course of this whole project was not successful from the beginning and certainly not by the neighbors, the local residents. Maybe because they ate this food in their homes, maybe because Stelios reminds them of what the kitchens in their villages used to be like, however, they definitely did not offer them the support they deserved. But it was done by people who know good food from one end of the island to the other. And that they also transferred it to travelers, Greeks and foreigners, as it happened with us. Little by little the word spread, the road to the mountain village began to be known, the road filled with parked cars of all kinds. The only thing that does not change is the philosophy of Stelios and Eumorphilis. Wherever you are from, whoever you are, no matter how big the group or how small, you will eat in your turn, at the pace of the kitchen.

This is the most authentic dining experience in Greece: The tavern that the major foreign media praise

Stelios in his gardens, 200m. from his kitchen

This is the most authentic dining experience in Greece: The tavern that the major foreign media praise

The place, the space, has its own dynamics. It welcomes and embraces all those who reach there to enjoy the genuine experience, without carrying with them urban or grandiose expectations. The atmosphere itself subjugates you, imposes its own, slow, human rhythms on you, and if you can’t accept it, it’s better not to go through the hassle of the journey. Don’t start expecting to eat ceviche and tiraditto, sour cream or chicken fillet with green salad, don’t go if you don’t like testing.

But you will find dishes that you will love if you are vegetarian or vegan, omnivore or meat eater. And if you are a lover of the gastronomic experience, you will have found your place. For the daring – for our own minds – combinations, for cooking, for ideas, for implementation, which year after year become even better.

This is the most authentic dining experience in Greece: The tavern that the major foreign media praise

If you have the mood and courage, you can request a short or longer tour of the farms and fields, if and as long as the weather and time permit. And if you see many young American girls tweeting around you, don’t be surprised, because US universities send their students to Dounia for education.

If with all this I didn’t manage to explain to you why the New York Times, and Conde Nast Traveler in the past, place Dounia among the top culinary experiences on the planet, then maybe only a visit there can convince you. But maybe not, if your priorities are the design of the space and the appearance of the whole.

Photos: (c) Manousos Daskalogiannis

The article is in Greek

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