Reviews of Restaurant and Tavernas in
By John ( Ireland )
We have been to Piskopiano about sixteen times since 1992. We were lucky that we met a couple on the first visit who had been there a few times so they were able to give us the benefit of their experiences
We always stay in the Mika Villas, located just down the lane from the well at the bottom of the short, very steep road that leads to the main street when you drive up from Hersonnisos.
I can honestly say that we have only had one bad meal in all the times we have eaten in the village. In the evening many people come up to the village to dine, as the food is very good and reasonably priced. One thing to remember is that you may have a wait some time for your food as most of it is freshly cooked to order. Half an hour is not unusual so sit back, relax and have a glass of wine, there is always avrio, (tomorrow).
Do try the Greek wine, some of the reds are very good but watch out for spoiled wine. It is not the fault of the restaurant or shop, my opinion is that the bottles may have been stored vertically and as a result of the high daytime temperatures the cork shrinks and lets air in so the wine becomes corked. Any time this has happened to us the restaurant or shop owner has been most apologetic and has replaced the bottle immediately. We have had corked wine in other restaurants in other parts of the island. It seems to be just part of life due to the heat.
The white wines are also good, most of them are dry. Again, be aware of corkage. Much has been written about retsina, the resin flavoured white wine. My own opinion is that people cannot believe it is so cheap. They buy a bottle and it doesnt taste too good. The same can be said of any wine, if it is very cheap then it will not be good quality. The other thing is that retsina must be as cold as possible when you drink it, preferably kept in the freezer for a couple of hours.
Anyway, back to food, we usually eat in one of the following when we are in Piskopiano:
Taverna Lychnos in Piskopiano - review by John ( Ireland ) - Rating 10/10
On the left hand side of the short, steep road leading to the main street is the Lychnos Taverna, owned by Yiannis. This restaurant specialises in chicken on the spit, it is very good and actually tastes like chicken, not the usual bland chicken we seem to get here at home in the supermarkets. The other Greek dishes are equally good. The restaurant is one where you would wear your more formal clothes in the evening, many people eating here have dressed for the occasion and you may feel out of place in old shorts and t-shirt.
This I not to say that the atmosphere is formal, far from it. They are very professional and friendly at the same time, nothing is too much trouble and they will cater for any special requests with regard to how the food is cooked and what ingredients are used. Yiannis also has his own wine, to some it may be an acquired taste but we like it and it is very reasonable.
Generally the restaurant closes around midnight, you may of course stay on for a drink.
In September when the grapes are harvested Yiannis presses the grapes in the restaurant. This is a very basic process and anyone can join in. Basically the centre of the restaurant is cleared of furniture and a large plastic sheet is laid on the floor. One end of the sheet is led down a short flight of steps into a basin to collect the juice. You then must wash your feet and start trampling the grapes that are in boxes placed in the centre of the plastic sheet.
Good fun, and they will feed you with spaghetti and boiled meat, for free. You can see why I said that Yiannis own wine may be an acquired taste, we have actually drank wine the we pressed ourselves the previous year, and very nice it was too.
Taverna Dionysus in Piskopiano - review by John ( Ireland ) - Rating 10/10
Across the main street is a taverna - bar - restaurant called Dionysus. Two brothers, Manolis and Michalis, own it. They also have a larger restaurant in Gouves about ten kilometres away and their sister has a Chinese restaurant on the right hand side of the road leading to Koutouloufari, about ten minutes walk from Dionysus. Really good Chinese food cooked by Chinese chefs.
We usually have breakfast here, Michalis does the morning shift and he usually opens around 09:30. A huge breakfast is in the region of three euro, proper bacon and sausages with all the trimmings. You may find the eggs a little bit strong, I think they are free range and to us they are delicious.
In the evening Manolis runs the restaurant. They have the usual Greek food and they specialise in stifado, beef stew. I think it must be the best stifado I have eaten. Like all good stews it is made the day before and naturally tastes better the following day. Ask for chips, (French fries), with the Stifado. The chips are proper potatoes, not the reconstituted rubbish you sometimes get. Sounds like a weird combination, stew and chips but it is very good.
They also have lovely chicken, ask them for Chicken Frida, Manolis daughter is called Frida and he makes this especially for her when she arrives from school in the afternoon. She asked us would we like some one day and it is really tasty.
Dionysus is less formal than Lycnos so clean shots and t-shirt would be acceptable to wear. The atmosphere is fairly laid back and casual.
They usually stop serving food around 23:00 but will make you snacks if you are really hungry. Michalis usually arrives around this time for a drink and a chat with his brother. It is a great place to drink till the early hours and the view of the bay is spectacular.
If you mention John, (or Yanni as I am known locally), from Ireland to Yiannis, Michalis or Manolis tell them I gave them a good write up on the web, they deserve it.
Pizza in Piskopiano - review by John ( Ireland ) - Rating 10/10
Across the road from Dionysus is a take away pizza outlet attached to fairly large restaurant, I cannot remember the name but they specialise in Italian style cooking, along with the usual Greek fare. The minestrone soup is excellent and the pizzas are cooked in a proper stone oven fired with olive wood. A good place for kids as there is plenty of room with large tables that the whole family can sit around.
They have a great variety of pizza toppings and you would have to be really hungry to eat one on your own. The take away pizzas are the same quality as served in the restaurant and they usually serve to 0130 in the morning so it is handy if you arrive back late and the other restaurants have stopped serving food.
Restaurant David's in Piskopiano - review by John ( Ireland ) - Rating 10/10
If you now go toward Koutouloufari you will come to a v in the road where there are two public telephones. Just here on the left hand side is a traditional local restaurant that we call David's. We sometimes have a lunch of mezzes, (different snacks).
The food here is traditional as many of the local people eat here. Many tourists would not eat here as the place looks old fashioned and slightly worn down. Do not be deceived, the hygiene is excellent and the food very tasty, if sometimes unusual.
Prices are unbelievably low, we had lunch for four including wine and beer that we were eating and drinking for two hours and I think it cost about twenty-five euro in total.
Info about Raki, the local drink of Crete
Finally a word about drink, especially raki. As I have previously mentioned, the Greek wines can be very good, even retsina when properly chilled. The Greek beers are usually a good bit cheaper than imported and quite acceptable, they do have a peculiar tang in comparison to the northern European lagers, possibly something to do with the temperature.
I have drunk many a bottle of Mythos with no ill affects. One advantage is that you will probably have more money left in your wallet the morning after. The locals have a habit of ordering a large bottle of beer among two or more people and drinking from small glasses. This is not because they are poor or anything like that. They are very clever when you consider that the evening temperatures can be in the high twenties or low thirties. At these temperatures even a large bottle of beer will quickly warm up. However, if you share a bottle the beer will be consumed before it warms up.
Raki, what exactly is it and where does it come from? Strangely enough it is actually made in Piskopiano. There is a still on the left hand side of the lane leading to Mika Villas. I think it dates from the 1700s and has been in the same family for generations. These stills are totally legal and provide seasonal employment for many people outside the large cities and towns.
The process is quite simple and begins with crushing the grapes to make wine. The remains, (pulp, skins, seeds etc.) that are left after the juice has been extracted are placed in large covered containers, (previously earthenware pots, nowadays 400 litre plastic oil drums), and left to ferment for a year.
In October the stills are fired up and people bring their drums of fermenting remains to the local still. The remains are put into the still and what comes out the far side is raki. As the raki has been made from fermented grape remains it can be likened to brandy, which is made from distilled wine. It is, however, very young brandy and very strong. Good raki, when it comes out of the still, is clear like water with a blue tint and 80 to 90 proof.
The owner of the still may be paid in cash or sometimes they take a percentage of the raki that they have made and this means that they do not have to buy any.
I have tasted it straight from the still and it is very potent. The raki you will be offered or buy in the shops has been diluted. If it was not it would probably kill you. It is a good cure for a head-cold or runny nose. Take a shot of raki, a spoon of honey, mix together, and add the same quantity of hot water and drink. Lovely stuff and the head-cold usually disappears in half an hour or so, magic. It is also good as an alcohol rub for sore joints etc.
If you can manage to get a full strength bottle from a local person it is worthwhile bringing some home and remember to keep it in the fridge. Some of the raki that is sold in the shops, even if it is diluted, is also good if it has been made locally.
Dont forget when you are having a shot that the undiluted stuff will knock you out. Also it should be well chilled.
I hope that you will as good a time as we have had if you decide to try any of the above.