by Natalie Martin
After bursting onto the Melbourne culinary scene last year, SOWL Restaurant on Koornang Road in Carnegie embraces the Australian winter season with an offering of heart and soul warming dishes that have become firm foodie favourites.
The love child of renowned Athenian chef Yiannis Kasidokostas, SOWL Restaurant was born out of his sheer passion for the Greek culture and the concept of philoxenia.
An ancient Greek value ranked atop of the list of virtues and living on today in modern Greek culture, philoxenia literally means ‘friend to a stranger’ describing the great respect bestowed by host to guest. For Greeks it’s about the Greek generosity of spirit and sharing their lives with others — such as inviting people into your home for a spitiko (home-cooked) meal.
After the financial crisis hit Greece in 2006, Kasidokostas made the life changing decision to uproot his life and settle in Melbourne, the city with the third largest Greek population in the world after Athens and Thassaloniki.
“I love the multicultural lifestyle of Melbourne,” says the chef of his decision. “People here enjoy good food and expect hospitality, something that is very challenging in the world of business but also very rewarding if you love what you do.”
And loving what he does is an understatement to say the least.
“I have a deep feeling as a human but also as a chef that I have a mission to accomplish: - to deliver what my heritage is, what our heritage is, because it is beautiful and unique to us.”
Chef Yiannis believes that there are many reasons to be proud and to strive to showcase the greatness of the Greek and Mediterranean cuisine and culture; and to demonstrate what real hospitality is.
“In ancient Greece there were not restaurants. People invited others into their home for a festivity, celebration, a nice feast or social cause.
After thousands of years this custom became part of our culture, part of our DNA. It’s something that is natural to us. We didn’t even have to study or learn how to provide this to others. That inner feeling was so culturally spread from one generation to the next effortlessly.
From a simple coffee at someone’s house to a meal invitation with a lot of different things on a table with way too much to eat just because we love variety and different flavour profiles when we feast - Greeks grow up serving or cooking by heart and love to offer it to others and see them happy with what we give.”
Kasidokostas designs his restaurant experience and menu to stay true to these philosophies and the culture that he holds so dear – fresh, authenic Greek cuisine, served with passion and philoxenia.
“Real Greek cuisine embodies passion about fresh produce and ingredients, has soul and the consideration of a great life filled with emotions of great flavours and food cooked with love at a table of sharing - even if it’s just one piece of tasty bread with olives.
“If there are people around the world who never get to know what real Greek cuisine is, then it’s our mission to introduce it to them!”
The aptly named Lamb of the Gods is one of the dishes that SOWL is best known for: a 12-hour lamb shoulder, brined, air-dried, braised and compressed to merge the fat content into the super tender meat, served with a sticky, study jus, made from the bones.
“The way that this dish is prepared, cooked and served makes everybody want to try it and come back for it time and again,” explains Kasidokostas.
A dish often synonymous with Greek cooking, authentic Greek lamb is not always easy to perfect.
“Good olive oil, oregano and sea salt are the key ingredients to complement,” advises Kasidokostas when prompted for his tips.
The succulent Lamb of the Gods at SOWL Restaurant is loaded with the aforementioned flavours and just melts off the bone and into your mouth, the authentic Greek way.
Teamed with a side of oven baked potatoes and seasonal chargrilled vegetables, it’s the perfect winter dish.
So, escape the chill and head to SOWL Restaurant for this heavenly taste of authentic Greek cooking!
92 Koornang Road, Carnegie Victoria 3163
T: 03 9530 4036 E: [email protected]