Review: Hellenika brings a slice of Greece to Al Khobar
Al Khobar’s idyllic Greek getaway offers chill vibes and authentic food and drinks…
It’s hard not to smile when you walk into Hellenika. Chic aesthetics, attention to detail, and the novelty of innovative Hellenic cuisine with centuries-old Greek and Cypriot traditions all combine to make Hellenika the idyllic escape you’ve been waiting for.
Much of the buzz surrounding this seafront destination has to do with the immaculate interiors inspired by the shores of Santorini.
@whatsonksa Transport yourself to the Greek islands when you dine at Hellenika in Al Khobar… #whatsonksa #saudiarabiatiktok #visitsaudi #Hellenika #EasternProvince #Khobar #Greekcuisine ♬ Sweet Dreams – Trinix
Step into Hellenika, through the traditional stucco cave at the entrance, and feast your eyes on embalmed olive trees and the spectacular displays of ornaments and sculptures, such as the burnished bronze bell – transported from Santorini – displayed in the bar area.
The gorgeous space embodies a vibrant Greek island lifestyle, with apparent attention to detail everywhere you look, from the pave travertine floors and the smoked oak and whitewashed wood to the linen sails, large urns and terracotta pots.
Boasting a tranquil palette of blues, greys and whites, the spacious main dining area is flanked on one side by an open kitchen grill and a seafood display and the other by the stunning outdoor terrace overlooking the sea.
As for the food itself, once it hits your tastebuds, you’ll see why you should head here for delectable Greek fare. Head chef Evangelos Liakouris’ culinary identity shines through at Hellenika. Everything is fresh and punchy, and according to Chef Evangelos, “It’s the sort of dishes our Greek grandmothers cook but in an elevated style”.
To start, we have the Tzatziki Experience (SAR75), and as an introduction, it delivers. The three types of traditional dips – comprising Greek yoghurt, garlic, cucumber and mint; beetroot; and avocado – are served with a rich-tasting Carob bread, Ladenia (a delicious Greek flatbread from Kimonos, topped with tomatoes and onions), olives, a tasty olive tapenade, and Hellenika’s very own extra-virgin olive oil, which is harvested and bottled in Sparta.
The rest of the mezze – which arrives so quickly – bowls us over. The fairly generous serving of raw fish in the Marinated Sea Bass (SAR95) is firm and fresh, although it is drowned out slightly by the zesty, only-mildly chilli marinade. The Hellenika Garden Salad (SAR85) is literally a ‘garden’ that appears to be filled with soil, but it is olive crumbs holding a bed of tomatoes, capsicum, onions, and feta cheese.
The juicy Shrimp Saganaki (SAR175) is a resounding favourite. Nestled in a tomato sauce with herbs, and topped with creamy feta cheese, what’s not to love about a dish that’s rich yet balanced and full of flavours? Of course, it’s hard also to resist trying a bite of the yummy Wagyu Keftedes (SAR165). Moist on the inside, with the juices from the wagyu intact and flowing on the first bite, the goodies are nicely offset by the smooth and refreshing truffle artichoke dip.
We then settle into mains of the Lamb Souvlakia (SAR145), served with grilled corn pita bread, yoghurt sauce, spicy tomato, pickled onions, and slaw. The chargrilled lamb skewers could have done with being a little softer, but we suggest slicing up the cubes before stuffing them into the warm and fluffy pita bread pockets. And when it’s filled to the brim with the flavoursome dips and accompaniments, this dish will blow you all the way to Greece.
The Chicken “Lemonato” (SAR165) has been marinated in lemon before it is grilled. It is ridiculously succulent and has gotten approving nods and applause. Its clean flavours – even though it’s served in a luscious truffle cream sauce and adorned with earthy, fragrant truffles – offer a respite from the punchy dishes all around.
For diners in larger groups, the Seafood Orzo (SAR360) impresses. The al dente rice-shaped pasta, studded with mussels, prawns, langoustines, and scallops, is infused with basil, tomato, and fennel – hence, the deeper umami and seafood flavours.
Our hearty lunch ends with an array of sweets. They begin with The Cyclades (SAR28) ice cream – made with saffron and rose petals – followed by Hellenika’s refreshing interpretation of the Portokalopita (SAR68). Sitting atop the traditional decadent Greek orange cake is an orange sphere that reveals an orange and white chocolate mousse with blood orange compote.
Another dessert that captivates is The Mastic Forest of Chios (SAR70), presented on a log-shaped serving dish, covered with lemon thyme chocolate ganache and mastic tears (droplets of resin of the mastic tree from the Greek island of Chios), and with surprise bursts of passionfruit crèmeux. The desserts bring the meal around to a playful note, and the layers of flavours are an unexpected delight – much like Hellenika.
To drink, their enticing beverage menu features nine house drinks – each one celebrates Greek mythology and summer island vibes. And in keeping with the overall restaurant ethos, their mocktail programme is an inspiring fusion of Greek island culture and modern mixology techniques, making clever use of Greek herbs and other interesting ingredients, such as their homemade botanicals. Moreover, these are served in distinct glassware, making the mocktails truly unique.
Standouts include Resting on One’s Laurels (SAR45), a dreamy mix of homemade laurel cordial, lime juice and thyme and eucalyptus aroma, and Legend of Apollo (SAR45), a lip-smacking concoction of Sunripe grapes and Greek wildflower honey that combine with spicy ginger and fresh lemon juice.
Greek island dreams are made of this…
Hellenika, First Floor, Al Matal Complex, Alkurnaish, 6563, Al Khobar, Sun to Wed 12.30pm to 4pm & 6.30pm to 11.30pm, Thurs 12.30pm to 4pm & 6.30pm to midnight, Fri 12.30pm to 4.30pm & 6.30pm to midnight, Sat 12.30pm to 4.30pm & 6.30pm to 11.30pm. Tel: 9200 12579. @hellenikakhobar