Giant shrimp – not an oxymoron – harbor dining year ‘around

Restaurant, Botsaris Fish Taverna, Akti A. Koumoundourou, No. 30, Mikrolimano / Tourkolimano / Garidadika, Piraeus, Greece

You’d think the shrimp were lobsters!

Yorgia and Yorgos Papadopoulos operate this casual restaurant right on the waterfront of Mikrolimano or Tourkolimano in Piraeus. Although the kitchen and a few tables are located on the dry side of the street, their large airy dining room is located right on the harbor. In the summer the floor to ceiling glass windows are open to the sea, while on cool days they close the tall sliding glass walls. On a cool autumn afternoon, the windows provided the perfect vista as the waves crashed over the stone breakwater, and the colorful fishing boats moored throughout the small harbor swayed gently.

The walls are adorned with life size photographs of Mikrolimano’s yesteryear, including a large photo of the hill overlooking the port, once home to a lovely Neo-Classical mansion, today the site of a contemporary glass and concrete complex. The tables are average and provide comfortable seating.

We had parked right in the front of the restaurant, they usually reserve parking for their customers by putting some chairs in the parking spaces. Yorgia, always with a huge, genuine friendly smile on her face, saw us pull up from the restaurant and she came over to the car.

“We are hungry” I said.

“Well, come on in and let’s see what we can do about that” she said raising her eyebrows but never loosing that smile.

This is the second time we visited the restaurant, and although this time we did not have Scruffy the Border Collie with us, she seemed to remember us. There was the feeling of returning somewhere where you’ve been before.

Yorgia is everything in the place. She has the personality and the warmth of a great hostess, welcoming you to her home. I remember that from the first time we visited. It was like she had known me since childhood. And that’s how she was with all the tables around us. She is also a very honest proprietor. On both of our visits she stopped us from ordering too much food.

The taverna is located right next to the Fisherman’s Association “office”, where the fishermen of Microlimano unload their catch every day, giving her first dibs in the freshest and best quality fish in Athens.

The fare is simple and straight forward and is posted on the window along with the prices.

There were 6 of us and we ordered

2 small bottles of Plomari ouzo

2 orders of Broiled octopus – Sliced thin, a generous amount, very tender and tasty.

2 orders of Giant Kalamari

1 Taramosalata (Fish roe spread) – a rare treat in restaurants in Greece. Greeks traditionally eat Taramosalata during lent, before Easter. You will not find it in restaurants during any other time of the year.

1 Tyrokafteri (Tangy, spicy feta cheese spread)

2 orders of Horta (Dandelion greens)

1800 gr (12) Broiled Shrimp (Yorgia insisted on 1 shrimp per person, but they are soooo good!)

Most everyone who visits Mikrolimano does so for the shrimp. In fact, the area is also called Garidadika – Shrimp restaurants. They are immense. The size of small lobsters. In fact, one of our dining companions commented that they were larger and meatier than most lobster tails! They are served shelled with the heads on, in a light olive oil and lemon sauce. When you place one on your plate, drizzle some of the sauce on it. Separate the head and you may be lucky to find one or two with roe. The roe is pink and silky smooth and tastes wonderful. Don’t forget to suck the juices from the head. Then enjoy the tail. This is what every chef tries to achieve in food. A little crispy on the outside and soft and succulent in the inside. Dip the tail in the sauce on your plate and enjoy.

Our meal was finished with 2 generous platters of fresh fruit, honeydew, apples and pears which Yorgia treated us to. My father in law exclaimed he never had honeydew he liked until that day. It was vine ripened, sweet and melt-in-your mouth soft.

This area is best reached by car or taxi, although don’t let the taxi driver divert you from your goal – Botsaris Fish Taverna – oftentimes taxi drivers will suggest they know some place better. Stick to your guns and insist on being taken to Botsaris.