For a cuisine whose roots date back to approximately 4000 years ago (history tells us that in 330 B.C., the first cookbook was written by a Greek man named Archestratos), it wasn’t until in late 2005, when Cyma Greek Taverna opened, that Filipinos really got a taste of what authentic Greek food is all about. “I had gone on two trips to Athens,” recounts Executive Chef Robby Goco, “I went around the island and realized that there were no Greek restaurants in the Philippines. I thought it was high time Filipinos experience this cuisine.”

Cyma, the Greek word for “flourish”, definitely lived up to its name when it first opened in Boracay—it was an instant hit. But when Chef Goco chose to put up its first branch in Manila, its initial performance was quite disappointing. “When we opened it, people didn’t know anything about Greek food,” says Chef Goco, “to a point that we started calling our families! The first three days, I told my partner, ‘I think I made a mistake. I overestimated Filipinos; they’re not ready for Greek.’ Only seven customers came on day one. Day two, however, they came back with guests. On day three, their guests came back with their own guests. After that it never stopped.”

Today, Cyma’s always fully booked and it’s best to call in a reservation before dining—this I can attest to as my family eats there quite often. We seem to have developed an addiction to their variety of mezedes, souvlakis, salatas and homemade gyros—and it’s guilt-free addiction, too, because we all know Greek cuisine is one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. With extra virgin olive oil present and in abundance in almost all its dishes, it’s quite alright to have hale and hearty helpings of Cyma’s exquisite Lamb and Watermelon Salad. “Who would think watermelon and lamb would go together in a salad?” asks Chef Goco, “nakakatuwa. There’s sunflower seeds there, too.”

Dining in Cyma not only exposes you to authentic Greek choices like the classic Moussaka (layered seasoned ground pork and beef with roasted eggplant and béchamel sauce) or Lamb Paidakia; there are also progressive recipes (Chef Goco’s interpretation of Greek cuisine) like the Kurobota Pork Pansetes—the Greek version of our much-loved liempo—served on farmer’s artisan bread with roasted Greek potatoes and tzatziki.

You’ll also be pleased to find that new additions abound—for starters, check out the Bouyiourdi, undoubtedly the king of all dips, with its delightful layers of fresh tomatoes, creamy feta and sharp cheddar. The Shrimp Maroulis Salata with its mixed salad greens, feta, cherry tomatoes, green onions and dill dressed in summer herb dressing, is quite refreshing and goes well with the Midia Saganaki (choose from either the pasta or appetizer version) with its broiled mussels, tomatoes and feta. If you’re a vegetarian, the Leonides Pasta—slow roast Greek summer vegetables tossed in baby linguine topped with crumbled feta cheese and pine nuts—will definitely tide you over.

Want to end the night right? The crowd favorite has always been Cyma’s molten chocolate cake, the Skolatina, served with vanilla ice cream and delightfully gooey caramel sauce. Without a doubt, a taste of this—or any Cyma dish for that matter—is guaranteed to keep you coming back again and again. And again.

Cyma Greek Taverna is located at Level 6 Shangri-La Mall, Mandaluyong City, tel. no. (2) 637 3090; G/F Greenbelt 2, Makati City, tel. no. (2) 729 4837; Level 4, TriNoma Mall, Quezon City, tel. no. (2) 915 2859; Level 2, Eastwood Mall Libis, Quezon City, tel. no. (2) 709 1955; and D’Mall, Boracay Island, Aklan, telefax no. (36) 288 4283. For more information, visitwww.cymarestaurants.com.

This article was published in HIPP Magazine’s February 2010 issue.

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