“Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese (Twelve Islands) and is one of the closest to the Turkish shore. After boarding the ferry at Marmaris, you arrive on the island in just 1 hour. You now deserve a tour of the Old City. And I have two recommendations for you if you want really good food while you're catching your breath. Here we go…"
-Ufuk Kaan Altin
Having been occupied by many civilisations since the neoclassical period, the most noticeable traces in Rhodes are from the time of the Knights and the Ottomans. The massive city walls are remnants from the time of the Knights, as is the Old City. It is possible to find remains of buildings from previous periods, as well as Ottoman mosques. You may be able to see the Old City in one day but you will need much more time to see Rhodes as a whole. If like me, you don't have much time, you can skip to dinner after a quick tour of the Old City.
An absolute must
When entering the city through the gate closest to the harbour, you will see the church ruins right in front of you. Take a break and take some photographs, and you'll see Hatzikelis. This restaurant, which is housed in a building dating back to the time of the Knights, was first opened in 1969 as a bakery. Yorgo Chatzikelis, the founder of the restaurant, turned the place into a fish restaurant in 1982. Yorgo has long since passed away, but his son, Yannis, now runs the business. We were lucky enough to meet him.
Would you like a tour of the kitchen?
First of all, they give every customer a tour of the kitchen. In just two minutes, Yannis gives me various shellfish to taste: sea urchin, scallop, and another kind of shellfish. This last shellfish has a very sharp taste, but is very delicious – it's hard to explain. This dish is not included on the menu and if you wish to try it, you will need to ask Yannis. Or you can let the head waiter Vasilis (Panitsas) guide you. Vasilis is an attentive, knowledgeable and sociable man who does his job with a smile on his face. He says, “I have a few recommendations if you like seafood." And I reply, “Please." The smoked salmon and another dish, made with a fish similar to our mackerel and served warm, are extremely fresh and tasty. And of course, the dish of the shellfish in its own juice enriched with olive oil and lemon juice has pride of place. I order a fresh salad, and a 20 cl Raki. I start to get a little merry.
Camel pastrami, swordfish roe…
I also want to try some different flavours that are specific to Hatzikelis. I notice “Pasturmalı" on the Turkish menu, which is a kind of pastry similar to the Turkish pachanga. The difference is that one of the ingredients is camel pastrami. Yes, that's right: camel pastrami. This is also a very inviting dish, as are the charred aubergines. They char bell aubergines and then carve them out, before filling them with feta cheese and sprinkling some parsley on them. They also drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar onto the aubergines. The dish is served hot. Vasilis then brings another plate. I don't understand what the dish is, so I ask him. It's swordfish roe, and it's on the house.
Although I wanted to try the sea bream, grouper, sheepshead bream, dentex and dusky grouper I saw during the kitchen tour, I don't have time. Next time, then…
I complete my meal with a black Greek (Turkish) coffee. Vasilis serves the coffee with mastic from Chios. What a nice guy! I paid €69 for this exquisite meal, but trust me, it's worth every cent.
Leaning against the city walls
There's no time to rest so I continue my Old City tour from where I left off. I take lots of photographs before moving on to my second stop, Dinoris.
Dinoris is an elegant restaurant literally leaning against the historical city walls. They have welcomed many members of the elite from Turkey and across the world. The walls of some 700-year-old building are covered with the photographs of presidents, prime ministers, ministers and bureaucrats.
I am cautious but…
I'm cautious this time because I consumed way more food than humanly possible at Hatzikelis. I start with the salad, which is a restaurant special. The head waiter, Yiorgos (Moltsas), brings a plate with pomegranate, spinach, rocket, tomato and avocado. It tastes very refreshing. However, I can't stop myself from trying the stuffed calamari. They grill this whole and then bake them, before serving them in slices. The fresher the product is, the more delicious it is.
I decide on seafood linguine as the main course. Yiorgos can't believe his eyes but who cares. In for a penny, in for a pound.
I will come here again!
The pasta with tomato sauce is extremely tasty, as are the scallops, calamari, mussels and prawns in it. Although I don't do this very often, I order my second coffee of the day to aid digestion. But Yiorgos thought I could handle even more food! He brings a dessert with the coffee. It is a kind of parfait with a cake-like base made of semolina, served with a side of mastic ice cream. I am not a dessert person but this is a light, refreshing dish.
And so we end another night. I paid €55, including drinks. And I will repeat what I said above: it's worth every cent.
Rhodes was the last stop of my six-day tour of six Greek Islands. I left my heart there! Until we meet again…
Address: 9 Solomou Alhadelf Str. Old Town Tel: 00 30 22410 27215 www.hatzikelis.gr
Address: Museum's Square 14A Tel: 00 30 22410 25824 www.dinoris.com
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