Delicious Modern Greek Food at The Apollo, Ginza
After falling in love with Greek food during a family trip around the Mediterranean several years ago, I have been trying to find those same wonderful flavors here in Tokyo, but to no avail. A friend who worked for the Greek embassy admitted that she, too, missed the dishes of her homeland, and gave me a book of recipes in case I wanted to try recreating them myself. Needless to say, I was never very successful. But then I was invited to a press lunch to sample dishes from a new Greek restaurant that opened in Ginza a few days ago, and my search is now over. I can guarantee that The Apollo will fast become one of my most frequented Tokyo eateries.
Located on the top floor of the brand-spankin’-new Tokyu Plaza Ginza, The Apollo occupies some impressive real estate. The corner space is lined with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over Ginza, across to the Imperial Palace, and beyond. It seats up to 160 diners at variously sized tables and a long bar counter, and one area can be sectioned off as a semi-private room.
The Apollo hails from Sydney, Australia, where its first restaurant was founded by Jonathan Barthelmess and Sam Christie. Jonathan’s Greek heritage inspired the concept, and many of the dishes served are his family recipes or modern twists on Greek classics. The food is served family style in portions that are meant to be shared, so it’s a great spot for a date, lunch with friends, a family dinner, or the start of a night out. Lunch sets for two or more start at ¥2,800 per person, and a dinner set is available for ¥5,500 per person.
To whet your appetite and get the ball rolling, start off with some olives marinated in chilli oil (¥800), or some warm Greek flatbread (¥500) with split pea or mullet roe dip. The split pea dip (¥1,000) is made with radish and capers, and blended until smooth like hummus. The taramasalata mullet roe dip (¥1,200) is creamy, tangy and not at all fishy tasting, having been blended with olive oil, red onion and lemon. Both dips are wonderful, and will have you even more excited for what is to come.
When at a Greek restaurant, it would seem silly not to order a Greek salad, and The Apollo’s version is one you will definitely want to experience. Big chunks of fresh tomato, cucumber and whole black olives are topped with fresh mint, parsley and a whole block of Danish feta (¥1,600). The Danish feta is made with cow’s milk, and is therefore creamier than its goat’s milk counterpart. This helps to balance the acidity of the vinaigrette dressing, which might make it more palatable for children.
Another star on the starter menu is the grilled saganaki cheese with honey and oregano (¥1,800). Served in a hot skillet, the cheese has a lightly crisped crust and is surrounded by bubbling honey sauce. It is subtly sweet and very moreish. I recommend eating it together with the village Greek salad for the perfect combination of sweet, sour, creamy, and refreshing.
While it may be tempting to spend an entire meal only ordering off the appetizer menu, this would be a mistake. Main dishes are cooked over wood and charcoal, and include everything from sardines, snapper, and calamari to sausages, BBQ chicken, and wagyu beef. I highly recommend trying The Apollo’s signature oven-baked lamb shoulder (¥3,200). Marinated with yogurt and a Middle Eastern spice mix, it is cooked overnight for ten hours until it is so tender that it pulls apart easily with nothing more than a fork, making it very easy to share. It is served with lemon for squeezing and a jar of tzatziki sauce that adds a cool creaminess. Have this with the garlic and herb roast baby potatoes (¥900) and you’ll feel like you’re being fed by a Greek grandmother who has been perfecting her recipes over her entire lifespan.
All this eating will probably make you thirsty, so wash down your meal with one of The Apollo’s signature cocktails. The “pearsephone” (¥1,300) uses Ketel One vodka, elderflower liqueur, pear and coriander for a uniquely herby flavor that is not too sweet. The apollo smash (¥1,300) blends Bacardi rum with elderflower liqueur and citrus juices for a refreshing cocktail that goes well with the various spices used in Greek cooking. Alternatively, order from the extensive wine list, which includes offerings from Greece, Australia and beyond, both by the glass and by the bottle.
I rarely leave room for dessert, but for The Apollo I would make an exception. There are traditional Greek offerings like filo pastry with walnuts and coffee cream (¥1,800), and loukoumades (honey donuts) served with pomegranate yogurt and pistachios (¥1,600). But never one to pass up a lemon-flavored sweet, I went for the avgolemono pie (¥1,600). This deconstructed version of the classic dessert sees tender dollops of lightly toasted meringue sitting atop a crumble made of biscuits and olive oil, under which you will find the lemon cream. Scoop down to the bottom of the bowl with the serving spoon in order to get equal parts of all three layers. The story goes that lemon meringue pie is Jonathan’s favorite dessert. His inventive take on it may now be mine.
Address: 11F Tokyu Plaza Ginza, 5-2-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Open: Daily, 11 a.m.–11 p.m. (last orders for food 60 minutes before closing; last orders for drinks 30 minutes before closing)