Gluttony redefined at Perama

by Forager on July 1, 2009

Welcome to the Eating Olympics!

On this occasion we have a team of 15 unlikely athletes composed of foodbloggers and Twitterers gathered at Perama, a 1 hat Greek restaurant in Petersham on the invitation of Chef and owner David Tsirekas, facilitated by the prolific Twitterer Fridley. We’ve come for a great feast – Perama’s $50 pp banquet but David has been seeding Twitter with cryptic messages so we suspect our banquet might be particularly generous in volume and perhaps with a few extra signature dishes thrown in for good measure. “I’m not going to give you the normal banquet”, he advised, “You’re on Greek Island time – don’t expect to be finished early” he teased.

Ha! I may have a slight frame – but my appetite can challenge that of a greedy growing teenage boy. I largely dismiss David’s sage advice.

But little to we know we’re about to be subjected to a challenge of the mind, body and spirit. Oh – the travesty of my arrogance! The night is set to play out like a great Greek tragedy, my arrogance has blinded me, I have underestimated the challenge ahead and I am about to be taught a lesson in humility.

Apparently we were served a whopping 35 courses. Thats right 35! Oh the gluttony.

To begin the feast we’re first served a small greek salad topped with a generous block of creamy Greek feta.

1. Greek Salad ($11.00), dressed with Cretan Minos extra virgin olive oil.
Then come some delicious dips. The smoked eggplant is wonderfully smoky and the taramasalata dip is delicious and creamy but I refrain from eating too much of this “filler food” as even to my knowledge, I know there is more to come.

2. Mixed dips ($13.50) Tzatziki, tarama , split pea, olive paste and smoked eggplant
served with paximadia seasoned with white sesame seeds and oregano.

Pickles may their way over to us. The octopus is lovely and the mushrooms thick and meaty in texture and full of flavour – but again, I try to refrain from picking at these too much and ruining my appetite.

3. Assorted pickles: octopus ($6.5), mushrooms ($5.0) and cabbage ($4.0)

The BBQ marinated artichokes have a wonderful subtle charred flavour and is not oily like I thought it might be.

4. BBQ Marinated artichoked ($5.5)

One of the bloggers, Richard is on a dairy-free regime so he gets some custom made meatballs that he generously share with the table. These are meaty, chunky and tasty with a nice slightly charred flavour.

5. Meatballs for those suffering a dairy-free regime

The haloumi arrives on our table and suddenly all bets are off. We’re greedily tucking into the cheese and the figs compliment the cheese nicely, lending some sweetness and mild pepperyness to the dish.

6. BBQ Haloumi cheese ($17.20) Char grilled Cypriot haloumi cheese served
with freshly chopped tomato & shallot, olive paste and honey peppered figs.

The filo pastries are a lucky dip dish. You don’t know what you get until you bite into it. Fingers crossed for the scallop and prawn… but I get what I believe is the Danish white and ricotta cheese. Tasty, but not scallop.

7. Filo pastried ($16.80) Danish white and ricotta cheese, shredded lamb
and white bean, rabbit stifatho and scallop and prawn.

The BBQ lamb’s liver is set down on the table and it is immediately obvious that I am not amongst offal eaters, as unlike many of the other dishes, this gets passed around generously and there is plenty for everyone. I love liver – so all the more for me!

8. BBQ Lamb’s liver ($15.00) Char grilled & served with straw string beans & split pea dip.

The mussels are eyed greedily as they make their way over to our table and we all dig in greedily to the plump and briny morsels. The pilaf is also delicious – the currents in it and the resulting flavour reminding me of Arabic-influenced dishes I’ve had in Sicily.

9. Chilli black mussels ($17.50) Spring Bay mussels cooked in a white wine, tomato sauce
with coriander.
Served with a currant and pistachio pilaf.

We’re at course number 10 and the vine dolmathes are placed on the table. I’m suddenly aware that we haven’t even reached the main yet and I’m feeling pretty full already. There are murmurs around the table at this point questioning exactly how many more courses there’ll be. Someone answers: “we’re getting one of everything on the menu!”WHAT??! I stare at the dolmathes in disbelief and realise I have seriously underestimated the challenge and as such have mismanaged my eating strategy. Oh dear. The dolmathes now look enormous in light of my new knowledge and I sensibly pass it on to the others at the table.

10. Vine dolmathes

The next dish was a special one that had to be tasted no matter how full I was. David’s special Kobe Ibérico goat – is a dish that began with David and a friend feeding a goat beer and chestnuts for 3 months in preparation for this dish. Whilst I taste neither beer nor the nuttiness of the chestnuts this isn’t surprising since Kobe cows and Ibérico black pigs are fed their specialised diets for well over 3 months. But David’s resulting dish is still delicious, rich, tender and so moreish in it’s aromatic tomato sauce! Knowing the story and the effort behind creation of the dish made it all the more enjoyable.

11. David’s special Kobe Ibérico goat

Before I even taste the next dish it is already a sensory pleasure for my eyes. It looks like a sweet baklava but the waiter announces that it’s pork belly! Pork belly baklava? It doesn’t sound like it’d work but one taste says otherwise. Morsels of rich pork belly hide within layers of flaky pastry covered in a gooey, sticky sweet sauce. Oh, if only I could fit more in!

12. Pork belly baklava ($17.80) Layers of flaky filo pastry, pork belly meat, date and pistachios,
topped with crispy crackling and served with a date and mastic sauce.

The rustic chips make their way to our table. I normally wouldn’t pass up a chip – especially delicious home-style looking thick cut chips like these. But I am struggling now and I pass this on.

13. Rustic grandma’s chips ($5.0)

Others at my table are in the same boat as me now, groaning quietly. Pumpkin pie? It looks so good. I can’t do it though and pass it down to the vegetarians in our group.

14. Hand rolled filo pumpkin pie ($26.00) Baked village style hand rolled filo and
pumpkin pie served with a roasted beetroot,
leek and mustard puree.

A pea casserole dish gets handed around and I muster enough strength to grunt, take a photo and pass the dish on. The effects of a food coma were starting to settle on me.

15. Bizella ($6.00) casserole of peas cooked with tomatoes and herbs

Finally after hours of eating and a belly that was becoming more taut by the second, the mains arrive. An enormous and generous serving of braised then chargrilled lamb virtually plonks down on the table with the weight of food on it. I feel like I’m letting down my foodie peers as I scrutinise the dish and choose a very small portion of the lamb. It is tender, flavourful and the squeeze of lemon over the top cuts through any heaviness. I leave the bean and potato sides untouched. I know. I am pathetic.

I look imploringly at Fridley and slump further down in my chair. It appears my stomach has expanded into the region of my spine and I am starting to resemble a shapeless potato sack in the corner. Fridley has no sympathy for me though and derides my meagre efforts in his best Olympic training coach voice. But he eventually relents and I overhear him asking a waiter if he’d be so kind to tell David that we’re full and he can stop sending dishes out. The response was a resounding no. We hear from the waiter: “That wasn’t what David had planned, so there will be about 5 or 6 more dishes coming our way”. Oh dear.

16. Lamb skaras (entree $17.70; main $28.50) Slow braised shoulder lean lamb with
oregano, olive oil, wine and garlic, then char grilled with a lemon, olive oil baste and
served with baked oregano lemon potatoes and string beans.

The feast waits for no-one and as a delectable plate of duck is placed in front of us I have the distinct feeling of being left behind at the train station and watching the train hastily retreat into the distance. It looks and smells amazing but I have to do the unthinkable. I decline the dish and start to pass it on but my foodie peers won’t have a bar of it. “Come on!” they cheer from the sidelines. I take a very small piece and pass the plate on. I have to admit – I wasn’t tasting a great deal at this stage. I was in survival mode as all blood had long drained from my brain to my belly to aid the digestion process.

17. Roast duck ($32.00) The Macedonians in King Phillips court enjoyed extravagant banquets,
which included game birds served with roasted fruits and greens.

The duck is roasted with a cumin spiced quince and served with wilted greens.

A beautiful clay pot lamb dish gets passed down the table. I declare that I am officially out and pass it on to others. It might be psychosomatic but I believe upon seeing this dish, my stomach expanded upwards into my lung cavity and my breathing instantly became short and shallow. I stared in mixed awe, disbelief and mild horror at my foodie peers as they continued to chow down healthily, some even complaining that we were lingering too long with our photos and there were people to be fed. Have these people been starving themselves for weeks in preparation for this event? I have a new found respect for their eating prowess.

18. Lamb Kleftiko ($30.00) To avoid detection during the Greek War of Independence,
the guerillas used to cook their meats in earthenware in the ground.
This variation is lamb cooked in a clay pot with potatoes and olives,

in a spiced tomato sauce and melted kasseri cheese.

My question is answered when the foodies around perk up at the arrival of the desserts. I feel a rush of adrenalin and endorphins as it heralded the end of my ordeal. Those around me are exhibiting an entirely different response – one I might describe as Pavlovian. Pupils dilated they attack the desserts which much vigour and near ecstatic groaning. I only just manage to scramble out of the way of the carnage. From the groans I gather this dish tasted very good.

19. Caramel baklava ice cream ($13.50) Sliced layers of vanilla bean ice cream,
caramel sauce and baklava; and Bougatsa ($13.50)
mandarin flavoured
milk semolina custard wrapped in filo.
Served with a tahini and mint cream sauce.

The brioche that came next was a very popular suitor to the sweet toothed ladies on our table. I heard endless praises and even saw a few foodies get up from their seats and follow the brioche on it’s journey down the table, stealing small morsels where they could. If that’s not endorsement for a positive review – I’m not sure what is.

20. ‘Ekmek’ ($13.00) The Byzantine peasants of Constantinople enjoyed a simple dessert
of oven fired brioche soaked in a spiced sugar syrup and served with kaymaki (clotted cream).

The kalamata olive themed dessert intrigued everyone. With much effort I forced in a bite of the ice cream. Immediately the briny, salty taste of the olives becomes apparent, followed by the cold creamyness of the ice cream, followed by a distinct olive aftertaste. Fascinating!

21. Kalamata baklava ($12.5) Chopped almonds with sugared kalamata olives and
shredded mixed citrus peels.
Served with a kalamata and mascarpone ice cream.

And hallelujah, the final dessert arrives. It is a beautifully layered rice pudding with rhubarb. Need you ask whether I tried this? Of course I wanted to. But of course I couldn’t even fit another breath of it’s aroma in. I was utterly and spectacularly defeated.

22. Rice pudding ($13.00) Milk, vanilla and cinnamon rice pudding served with
rhubarb poached in sweet brandy syrup.

If you’ve been astutely counting the photos you’re probably thinking – hang on, you said 35 – there are 22 dishes here. After reading my fellow foodblogger’s posts, I realise that my end of the table missed out on a whopping 12 dishes!These included delights like stuffed eggplant, crumbed haloumi and stuffed zucchini flowers. And the plot thickens – the bloggers at the other end of the table were also complaining about missing out on dishes on their end. There was evidently a food Bermuda Triangle in the middle of the table, suspiciously and accusingly pointing to the region of Fridley.

But I’m not really complaining as I doubt that I could have fit any of those courses in, because as it was I was ready to explode and leave a spectacular splatter all over the walls. In fact, the experience reminded me of a National Geographic documentary I’d seen on the enormous appetites of large boas and pythons. One particular python had burst open after attempting to swallow a large alligator. I honestly physically felt I was on the verge of doing something similar. Whilst the photo fascinated my own morbid mind, it’s not typical food blog fodder so I won’t post the photo here (but the curious and sick amongst you can click here).

At the completion of the Olympiad sized feast, the genius and puppet master behind the feast, David Tsirekas reveals himself and his many faces. Well – as the photo below shows, he only has one face – a bright and jovial one, with a permanent smile beaming at us.

I have certainly been taught a lesson in humility of Titanic proportions. My arrogance was my downfall. I severely underestimated that we would be served 35 colossal dishes and would eat for almost a solid 6 hours. I believe I had not experienced true gluttony until this feast at Perama. It is ironic that David’s Twitter avatar portays Odysseus – a cunning Greek mythology hero attributed with conjuring up the infamous Trojan Horse ploy. I should have known there was a twist to the night!
And the gods continue to punish me for my insolence! I think the feast has stretched my stomach as I am now permanently hungry!

In light of my incredible failure to properly experience the night’s delights, I’ve booked myself in again – this time with the intention of eating a delicious but enjoyable, refined meal of normal proportions – one far from my experience of extreme gluttony.

And at this point I should extend my apologies to readers for the prolific, cheesy and melodramatic use of Greek themes in this post (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). The cheese stops here.

88 Audley Street, Petersham; (02) 9569 7534
Open Tues – Saturday for dinner from 6pm – 10:30pm

Foodie in the know:
Perama is currently closed for renovations and will re-open on the 14th July 2009.

View Perama Greek Restaurant in a larger map

For other reviews on the Perama feast, please check out the blogs of fellow foodies (many more heroic and admirable in eating prowess than I) that also attended the night:

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tangled Noodle July 1, 2009 at 1:52 am

I didn't eat a bit and I'm stuffed! What a feast of incredible proportions; I can't even wrap my brain around 6 hours and 35 dishes! The photos are just a tease for what surely were delightful flavors and your commentary is brilliant. I felt your pleasure-pain!

2 Stephcookie July 1, 2009 at 10:04 am

I must have missed a lot of dishes too. I don't remember any zucchini flowers! Great post, I keep putting mine off due to laziness. Honestly I was the same as you, I was too full to completely appreciate anything about halfway through! Ooh and I'd love to hear how your revisit to Perama goes :)

3 tummyrumble July 1, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I knew that this would happen! Sooo much food! It was so lovely though, and what a wonderful host is David!

4 Trisha July 1, 2009 at 5:31 pm

At the risk of sounding like a sadistic food lunatic, I found this post really entertaining especially the National Geographic bit. 😀 But you know what, just like how the Olympics only come every 4 years, although these feasts are rare they truly are special in every way possible (and I mean every single way!). Great review, Trina!

5 Betty July 2, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Excellent coverage of the night Trina! I don't think any of us knew what we were in for! I thought it was going to be over by 8.30pm! Lol – Oh, how I was wrong. I missed out on eating a lot of dishes too :( DAmn! I'm looking forward to going back as a regular patron as well!

6 Forager July 2, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Hey Tangled Noodle – Thank you! Such kind words! Yes – definitely experienced and then probably crossed the fine line between pleasure and pain.

Hey Stephcookie – I know. Just after halfway (when i realised we were only halfway) was probably also when it turned the corner from feast to challenge. So if you were in the middle, and you were missing out on the dishes everyone else was missing – so ate them?

Hey tummyrumble – You should have given me some warning. I wouldn't have eaten at all for 2 days in prep! And yes, David is a wonderful host who knows how to put on a spread for guests!

Hey Trisha – I knew there would be people like me out there who'd enjoy that national geographic picture 😉 And you're right – although it was painful, it was thoroughly enjoyed (in retrospect) and great experience.

Hey Betty – I think there are a few of us in the same boat – all appreciate how good the food in front of us was but wasn't in a situation where we could eat/taste anymore!

7 Anita July 2, 2009 at 10:42 pm

I really like the sound of the pork belly baklava… thinking of going there soon… hopefully :)

8 Megan@Feasting on Art July 5, 2009 at 11:20 pm

This looks like such a fun night, lucky you!! I might have to go there just for the octopus pickles. Yum yum!

9 Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella July 6, 2009 at 11:12 am

That was a great night indeed! I know we knew we'd get a lot of food but I didn't realise how much and how moreish it would all be! :)

10 Forager July 6, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Hey Anita – Must try the pork belly baklava! It's delicious. I'm keen on trying the lobster moussaka that we missed out on during this feast. Mmm… lobster..

Hey Megan – Was definitely great fun, delicious and an experience to remember. You don't often get fed till you're on the verge of bursting.

Hey Lorraine – No, clearly, I had no idea either. I just wish I actually savoured the food towards the end of the meal properly and not in distress!

11 Leona July 6, 2009 at 10:25 pm

Trina awesome shots! especially the Lamb Kleftik. Definitely needs to be part 2 for the lobster moussaka…

i cant believe we hoed into all that food! It was a great nighttt ^_^

12 Forager July 8, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Hey Leona – I can't believe we ate that much either! Although, my belly and bottom are certainly telling me they believe I ate that much! Definitely looking forward to round 2!

13 Betty July 14, 2009 at 11:26 pm

EXCELLENT review Trina, & gosh – 6 dishes didn't make their way down your way?

14 Forager July 15, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Hey Betty – Thanks! We didn't miss out on 6 dishes – we missed out on 12 dishes! I can't imagine how I would've felt had I also eaten them too.

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