For Triangle Restaurant Week, an annual event that ran this year from Jan. 23-29 celebrating restaurants throughout the Triangle area with special multi-course menus, two of our Recess writers visited a Chapel Hill mainstay: Kipos Greek Taverna.
A member of Giorgios Hospitality Group led by restaurateur Giorgios Bakatsias, for the past decade, Kipos Greek Taverna has aimed to serve Greek and Mediterranean cuisine with elevated flair.
“I’ve always thought that Greek cuisine had a lot of integrity with its purity of ingredients, its focus on food,” said Bakatsias. “It keeps things honest and simple, to allow the brilliance of the ingredients to be present. A perfect fish of pure water doesn’t need much; proper cooking, a little lemon and olive oil is more than enough. It shows the simplicity of cooking – that the body can react to nourishment in an artful way.”
The atmosphere of Kipos is a blend of rustic and elegance, embellished with nostalgia.
We started with a meze platter with pita: fava santorini, melitzanosalata, taramosalata and tirokafteri. The taramosalata, made of whipped salmon roe and lemon extra virgin olive oil, was distinctly flavorful, and slightly biting due to the lemon, which avoids making the taste overly rich.
The tirokafteri, made of mostly feta, had tinges of spiciness. The fava santorini was close to a more airy type of hummus in texture. The melitzanosalata was served cold; crushed walnut pieces added crunchy texture.
A highlight of the meal was the avgolemono (chicken and lemon soup) — silky, homey, and comforting — as well as the horiatiki salad, as fresh as taking a bite of summer. Our main course included a creamy, tender moussaka with well-seasoned beef and eggplant that melted in your mouth, topped with a decadent béchamel soufflé. We also ordered the rotisserie pork, which was one of those dishes that has the power to gladden your heart. It was juicy, soft and well-seasoned with parsley and garlic. The meat was fully soaked in the broth and had an exquisite balance of lean and fat portions.
The live bouzouki music played by musician Xronis added an air of spontaneity to the dining experience. While we were dining, a group nearby, who were celebrating a birthday, started dancing around the room in response to the music.
Kipos means “garden” in Greek. The restaurant celebrates Bakatsias’ Greek heritage and his childhood times in the village garden, nourished by food prepared with love by his parents. “Philoxenia” — the ancient tradition of Greek hospitality — is deeply connected to the name Kipos and the brand. “Hospitality is sharing through your heart and not through your brain,” said Bakatsias. “[Philoxenia is about] spoiling the guest with kindness and good food, no matter what the background of that person is.”
As the “Thought Architect” at Kipos Bakatsias is involved in the restaurant at every level. He sees “vibration” in the space — its colors, flavors and movement. “Everything has a vibration of energy that reflects a continuity, something connective and meaningful,” Bakatsias said. One of the most challenging and rewarding tasks of running the restaurant include training the staff to familiarize them with Greek culture and an understanding of the ingredients, said Bakatsias. He wants his team to “exude their highest potential.”
Bakatsias recommend the wood-fire grilled octopus, avgolemono soup, his sister Olga’s handmade phyllo pies and gigantes plaki (giant beans).
He loves seeing the joy of guests in the dining room and expressed hope for Kipos to blossom as a relaxed taverna. “It’s been a great honor to share [hospitality] with this community and for our wonderful individuals [in the Kipos team] to work and grow with us.”
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Katherine Zhong is a Trinity junior and local arts editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.