Oozora – Superb Japanese Dining in a Leafy Suburb of Athens

For our second visit to Greece, we decided to stay in the leafy suburb of Kifissia. Within easy reach of the hustle and history of Athens 30 minutes south, Kifissia offered a respite from the city’s heat and density. We were fortunate to find one of the region’s finest Asian restaurants, around the corner from us in Kifissia. Any hesitancy to stray from the indigenous traditional Greek dishes of moussaka and slouvaki were quickly rectified upon arriving at Oozora.

The restaurant’s name translates to “blue sky” and that seems to be the ambitious nature of the Executive Chef Andy Lay’s menu. Respecting legacy Japanese cuisine, he has stretched to create some of the best sushi we have had anywhere.

Before the food arrived, however, we were delighted to savor libations designed by Head Bartender Dimitra Antonakopoulou. One drink was a blend of Aperol, tequila and strawberry and another combined vermouth, pink grapefruit and strawberry. But the surprising favorite was the Gypsy Blossom, comprised of gin, ginger, cucumber syrup and lychee.

We left our food selections in the hands of the chef, and he started us with a refreshing salad of duck, grapefruits and tender greens. Our daughters particularly enjoyed the tempura shrimp, which was delicately prepared. The first big hit of the evening was lobster with spiced cucumber and Vietnamese sauce. Executive Chef Andy Lay has trained in the globally-recognized Nobu Matsuhisa in Mykonos, as well as in France and London. He brings a global sensibility to his creations.

For instance, the crispy onion accompanying the fresh tuna tartare made for a unique pairing. Likewise, his salmon was cleverly seared with a pepper salt crust miso mustard sauce. I enjoyed the simplicity of the king crab tartare.

In addition to appealing to our sense of taste, he extended the visual stimulation when the waiter delivered a sashimi nigiri roll in a flat bowl with billowing dry ice.

Confirming that he can work well not only in the uncooked side of the menu, Lay prepared a delicate half chicken, which was boiled, then grilled with lime juice and lemon grass presented on a bed of corn purée. We also enjoyed pad thai coconut noodles, possibly the best we have had.

By then we needed to time to relax and enjoy the restaurant’s atmosphere. We sat in the open air enclosed garden, which was marked by artfully designed lighting, bamboo and foliage. The neoclassical building provides seating during inclement weather. As our dessert arrived, one of the many DJs began spinning perfect audio accompaniment.

By then we found room for Lay’s chocolate sphere, comprised of coconut and hot caramel. We also finished with penna cotta made from mango sorbet and bitter chocolate.

Oozora is a must stop if venturing outside the crush of Athens.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.