Already in their ninth year, Athinorama’s annual Chrysi Skoufi Awards (golden chefs hats) generate considerable interest on the part of restaurants owners and chefs, as well as from the public. Last Monday, at a gala dinner at Zappeion’s Aigli restaurant, the 29 establishments nominated competed for top culinary honors. «It gets better every year, and Athens is becoming an increasingly powerful metropolis of mixed cultures, developing markets and arts. The same goes for food,» said Dimitris Antonopoulos, restaurant critic and director of the award committee, in a conversation with Kathimerini English Edition. «There are great restaurant productions, with increasingly higher standards which are nearing those of establishments abroad. This is also expressed in other aspects of social life, for instance, in theater, where this year there were eight plays in which food was on stage; there is also a plethora of Greek books on gastronomy, while culinary standards are rising in quality and moving into the contemporary lifestyle.» The top four restaurants remain unchanged from their rank of last year: Voted best restaurant for the second time around is Spondi, which continues to develop a new gastronomical movement, featuring the collaboration of Herve Pronzato with prominent Provence-based chef Jacques Chibois. The second winner is Vardis, with a fresh staff of people, including a new consulting chef, the Frenchman Manuel Martinez, with an established reputation, whose orders are carried out by Bertrand Valegeas. The third top restaurant is Beau Brummel, where the departure of consulting chef Guy Martin (of Parisian Grand Vefour fame) brought in Jean de Grylleau (formerly at Vardis) as food and beverage manager – with Christophe Clesienne remaining as executive chef. At Aristera-Dexia, the fourth place spot, chef Chrysanthos Karamolegos continues experimenting with Greek and Mediterranean flavors. And continuing down the list, at low-key Edodi, Michalis Lytrivis’s sustained development continues to bear fruit. At Lefteris Lazarou’s Varoulko, seafood cuisine reigns supreme with the addition this year of excellent Greek platters. A new entry on this year’s list is Interni, a former Italian cuisine hot spot which has recently developed into a high-quality fusion-cuisine restaurant aided by chef Rudolf van Nunen, while back on the list is Mezzo-Mezzo, under the direction of flamboyant chef Yannis Geldis. Further down on the list are Bid Deals, the modern Greek Kitrino Podilato, followed by another new entry, Red, a recently opened restaurant at the Athinais Cultural Complex. In judging the restaurants, the committee separated points for the food, the cellar and service. Besides the best restaurant list, four other honors were also awarded: the prize for Best Service went to Vardis; for Best New Chef in Athens to Bertrand Valegeas (Vardis); for Best Greek Cuisine to Lazarou’s Varoulko, while the award for the capital’s Best Wine List went, once again to two stellar cellars, Ivan Ottaviani’s Sale e Pepe and Aristera-Dexia, run by sommelier Dimitris Lytinas. Antonopoulos further noted two developing trends. On the one hand, sushi has not only become a draw in Asian establishments, it is also making a splash in other restaurants while another recent trend is the recent appearance of club-restaurants, such as Foggs, which follow in the footsteps of establishments such as the Buddha Bar in Paris. Antonopoulos further noted two developing trends. On the one hand, sushi has not only become a draw in Asian establishments, it is also making a splash in other restaurants while another recent trend is the recent appearance of club-restaurants, such as Foggs, which follow in the footsteps of establishments such as the Buddha Bar in Paris.