If gyros, moussaka and tzatziki all sound Greek to you, it’s time to visit The Aegean, Tokyo’s only Greek restaurant, owned and operated by a Greek. Here you can chat with sculptor and restaurateur Nik Biniari and perhaps discover why Greek people always seem a notch more genki than the rest of us.
But before we indulge in food and drink, let’s pause for a moment to appreciate ancient history. Greece is, after all, the cradle of democracy. It was in Greece that man came up with the idea of one man, one vote — as long as the man didn’t happen to be a slave or a foreigner, of course. In quick succession, the Greeks invented the wheel, and then the barrel; followed by what is known today as Retsina.
At least part of the credit for inventing Retsina is due to the marauding hordes that invaded the land in olden times. In order to fool looters, the ancient Greeks mixed resin into their wine so that it would be left alone. Two side-benefits of this strategic move are that the resin preserves the wine and also keeps the blood pressure down. That’s why you seldom see two Greeks all worked up over such trifles as who’s the best midfielder of all time, or whether Turkey is a closer neighbor than Albania — at least not after a few glasses of Retsina.
But back to Tokyo, where Nik, who learned his trade at his father’s taverna since he was ten, is now the unofficial goodwill ambassador of the Greek Retsina Association. Of course Nik has stories to tell about other Greek wines, too. Ask him about Ouzo, for example.
Greek people are not just a tad more genki, they also tend to live longer. This has as much to do with the preservative quality of resin as with the types of food best exemplified by Nik’s home-cooking style of menu. Olive oil plays a large part in it, as well as goat’s cheese, fresh salad, garlic, yogurt, cucumber, and all the healthy things that have, regrettably, disappeared from most modern-day diets. Try Nik’s gyros, spicy beef served with pita bread, feta (goat’s) cheese, tomato, onion and olives. Or check out moussaka, a pie with several layers of potato, ground beef, eggplant and cheese besamel cream. And keep the tzatziki coming, that tasty mix of yogurt, garlic, olive oil, cucumber and salt that goes so well with pita or any other bread.
The interior of The Aegean is full of Nik’s original wood-carvings. Check out the old kotos with strings removed and now resembling the Elgin marbles. It makes you feel like you are inside a cozy taverna by the sea.
B1, Oriental Bldg.,
3-18-3 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku