Xanthi Greek Restaurant – Westfield Sydney

The surprises just keep on coming at Westfield Sydney.  Opening to much fanfare in April with Zara and a brand new foodcourt on Level 5, and then the second stage opening up just recently, I thought they were done!  But they are STILL going!  Just opened were a new Italian restaurant and the relocation of Perama at Petersham to new digs and new name Xanthi on level 6 of Westfield.    The entrance evokes a mysterious aladdin’s cave – with beautiful decorative tiles and stained glass lamps.  A bit more Moroccan than Greek, but adding to the cosy atmosphere contributed to by the sweeping draped curtains.

Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Living once put out a list of fine dining features that make a nice restaurant more welcoming. Those added touches that make you feel at home without looking for every opportunity to make a few more dollars.  Xanthi scored immeditely on two of these as you sit down – tap water offered (most fine diners offer you sparkling or still ie not free); and soon after – crusty bread and olive oil for dipping as you peruse the carefully planned menu.

All the dishes were beautiful earthenware tapas style plates.  I would love some of these at home!

The waiter suggested we order something from each section of the menu to share.  Dips/mezze, flat breads, mains and desserts.  Well with just two of us we thought we would order it Aussie style and treat it like one entree one main each.  We tried firstly the eggplant – two baby chargrilled lebanese eggplants (whole) and served with tomato sauce and some tzatziki.

When I went to Greece a year and half ago, there was one restaurant in Oia, Santorini that we kept going back to – fond memories – and one thing we tried there were zucchini fritters.  So for nostalgic reasons, this is what I had to order.   The pattie was great, but the oil wasn’t hot enough, so they were very very oily.  Three fritters came on top of a chickpea dip.  Yum though, but not good on the waistline!

Next, our selection from the Apo tin plastira – which means ‘From the wooden board’.  Xanthi’s site notes:

A plastira is the board that the women of the village use to stretch and roll out filo. The wood is made from pine trees and its properties make it the best surface to stop the pastry from sticking and tearing as it’s carefully stretched and thinned.

Our pastry is handrolled and made fresh. Baked fresh and served straight from the oven. Please be patient. Waits can be up to 30 minutes depending on demand.

Luckily, we didn’t have to wait so long, but intrigued we were by the rabbit stifatho – rabbit braised in tomato, honey, cinnammon, clove and red wine sauce and then shredded.  Hmmm….. eat bugs bunny?? Never tried it!  But gosh, they sure harped on it enough on Masterchef for me to be curious!  What came on our plate did not resemble bugs at all – but in fact looked like slow cooked chicken, or indeed pulled pork.  The pastry wasn’t light like the filo we get in the supermarkets – but it was definitely savoury and substantial.  As for bugs…. I would describe it like eating fishy chicken.   Maybe my palate is unsophisticated but it was definitely a bit seafoody.  Not in a delightful way, but interesting way.  I think I will leave elmer fud to eat dat wabbit!    I thought it was extremely pretty and good value for $16 though!  I did like it more than i like escargot though.

Now the REAL reason why I was desperate to try Xanthi was the pork belly baklava!  When excitedly telling my colleagues about it, the reaction was generally “Ew”. I think they associated baklava with dessert.  Pig dessert? Hmm.  But for me, I knew it had something to do with slow cooking, and something to do with savoury flaky pastry.  And it was also pretty.  It was two squares of pork belly, topped with two pieces of perfect crackling, with some prune sauce which added a sweet edge to the rich pork.  For my liking, I would have preferred the pork to be braised first – twice cooked. It wasn’t, which meant the fat could have been rendered down a bit more.   Perhaps a bit more stalk should be cut off the microherbs too – if I were to be really fussy.  But again, at $18, there really isn’t much to fault.

All in all, these 4 dishes plus a coke cost a tiny $55.   I’ll have to come back again for the baklava ice cream.  There are so many interesting things to try, and although there could have been a few things to be done to make it perfect ,hey it was opening week, it did well and I will be back!      Being next to Chat Thai and the food court, it was noisy though, so don’t go expecting a quiet intimate meal.  But do indeed go for the ouzo cart :)

And next time – the whole spit roasted beast! Yuuuummmm!!!!

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