For some, Greek food calls up memories of idyllic island vacations, while for others, like me, the experience of Greek food has been limited to oily moussaka in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant or the occasional stuffed grapeleaf (never met one I liked) from a deli. No matter which category you fall into, you will be delighted to know that good Greek food can be found in Paris, tucked away in the fifth arrondissement at Les Délices d’Aphrodite.
It’s not new or trendy, but it is always packed with Greek expatriates and lovers of Greece, and although it is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, there is nothing dusty or fusty about it. The food is reliably fresh and good, the decor bright and attractive, the welcome always friendly.
Both times I have been there, I have been especially well received, but only because I was taken there by a friend named Donald, a multilingual (nine languages fluently) American bon vivant living in Belgium who loves to practice his Greek. The manager and staff are so thrilled to meet a non-Greek who speaks their language that they constantly return to our table to chat with this rare phenomenon, a music lover who also occasionally bursts into song in Greek for their benefit. People at neighboring tables tend to join in the conversation, making for a lively lunch.
While the restaurant serves moussaka and souvlaki, the dishes most familiar to non-Greeks, it also offer a wide variety of others. I started with the tyri scharas, a generous helping of tasty grilled feta and halloumi topped with herbs and served with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, while Donald had the mélitzanokeftédès mé fava, fried eggplant with kasseri cheese, pine nuts and split peas.
For rhe main course, I chose the kalamaria ghémista, stuffed calamari with baby vegetables, rice, cuttlefish, spinach and shellfish jus, while Donald, who usually orders his favorite kotopoulo mé sisami (sesame chicken, which I tried on my first visit and loved) had the arnaki stifado, stewed lamb with preserved shallots, aged vinegar and cinnamon. All delicious and made with fresh, quality ingredients.
We chose classics for dessert: Greek yogurt with honey for me, and kataïfi (the Greek version of baklava) for Donald
The same family owns the more expensive gourmet Greek restaurant Mavrommátis across the street from Les Délices d’Aphrodite and the Bistrot Mavrommátis in the first arrondissement, as well as several Mavrommátis Greek groceries. In fine weather, Les Délices has a large terrace near one of the prettiest little squares in Paris.
While it is not inexpensive, Les Délices is what the French would call a valeur sûre in the unsure world of come-and-go restaurants.