Having a conversation with Stathis Kollias is difficult. Every five minutes he’s interrupted by a loud “yasuo!” (a Greek greeting), a few hugs and a chat. His restaurant has only been open for three days and it’s already bustling.
“You will see this very often in Mascot; all the time. It's like a small neighbourhood.” Kollias (formerly the general manager of Alpha) is the owner, director and everyman of GRK Souvlaki, the insanely popular gyros and souvlaki takeaway joint in Mascot. He’s just opened his second shop on Brown Street, Newtown serving the same gyros and souvlaki that made his Mascot store so popular.
The souvlaki, based on Kollias’ secret marinade, is rich, succulent and comes as skewers of pork, lamb, chicken or kotobacon. “It's chicken wrapped in bacon. It's delicious, one of the best. It started in Athens in the ‘90s or early 2000s.” The gyros is served with toasted pita bread, spiced rotisserie meat, chips and tzatziki.
It might be a small menu, but it’s full of interesting and uncommon traditional Greek dishes. Grab a pita roll with kolokithokeftedes, deep-fried zucchini dumplings stuffed with fetta, onions and capsicum. “It's like a meatball but vegetarian. It’s very soft inside but crispy on top,” he says.
Next to the classic Greek salad is the rarer Cretan dakos, a salad of shredded tomato, onion, feta and olives over dried bread, all heavily showered in oregano and olive oil. The bread layer soaks up all the juices from the tomato, feta and olive oil and forms a spongy layer at the base of the salad. “It's like bruschetta but different because it’s soft,” Kollias says.
More perplexing is the mastiha. Kollias says there’s nothing else like it. It comes as a viscous white blob on the end of a spoon dipped in a glass of water. It’s minty and nutty with a texture like what you’d imagine slightly melted chewing gum would be like, still chewy but quick to dissolve in your mouth. It’s made from resin from the mastic plant. “It only comes from this one island (Chios). They try to put it somewhere else in Greece but it doesn't grow. It's only from one place on earth,” Kollias says.
Whatever you do, don’t ask for a kebab. Kollias is proud of GRK’s traditional food and he’s eager to advertise the unique identity of Greek street food as different to the Middle Eastern cuisines it’s often likened to.
Shop 2, 206–208 King Street Newtown
(02) 8068 6382