Some may think of Greek food as clunky, pedestrian or low-end if they’re wrongly associating the entire cuisine with easily accessible diners or budget friendly gyro joints. If this is how you currently view Greek food, then your perception will be changed once you dine at Avlee Kitchen in Brooklyn.
Everything here is not only beautifully presented, but also perfectly executed by the deft hands of an owner and chef that’s been in the food business for his entire life. Andrew Poulos’ parents owned and operated a restaurant in Brooklyn called Promenade when he was a kid, so he grew up with the skills to open his own joint as an adult. When he opened in 2012, Poulos aptly named his restaurant Avlee, which means garden in Greek, as a tribute to the Carroll Gardens neighborhood in which it’s located.
What you’ll find here is a humble, quaint and comfortable dining room with open and visible access to the kitchen and a garden out back. Servers and hostesses will make you feel at home, and the rustic tables and decor add to that experience. In fact, one or two dishes even reminded me of a few things my mom cooks (some Greek preparations are similar to Italian cuisine).
The flavors here are subtle but complex, and the quality of the food is on par with fine dining, only without the pretentious, prima donna attitude. Andrew is a master of his art, and he is using incredibly fresh ingredients from local fish markets and his own garden. Nothing he serves has ever been frozen, and some of the more important items are actually imported from Greece. This is the real deal. This is Greek food at its best. Even something as common in Greek cuisine as tzatziki is done with perfection here. I’ve never tasted tzatziki as good as the one you can find at Avlee.
So let me give you a quick run down of what we tried with some tasting notes to go with it.
Kria Orektika (Cold Spreads)
- Fava Mani (right – chic peas with garlic, lemon, tahini and cumin)
- Tirokafteri (center – feta with bell, jalapeno and cayenne pepper)
- Tzatziki (left – yogurt with garlic, dill and cucumber)
These kinds of “meze” items are staples in Greek, Mediterranean and even North African and Middle Eastern cuisines. They’re a great way to get the party started. At Avlee, they’re $7 each, or you can get three for $14, which is clearly the better deal.
- Tiropita (feta and egg wrapped in phyllo): these were fun and tasty little bites.
- Keftethakia (pan fried beef and pork meatballs with tomato basil sauce): Sans the pork, these are the exact style in which my mother cooks meatballs. The pan-seared outside really adds great texture, and rather than stewing in sauce for hours and taking on a tomato flavor with mushy texture, these remain robust and hearty through and through. Wonderful.
- Haloumi Stin Psistaria (goat cheese grilled with lemon oil dressing, also found on the grill section of the menu as a composed entree): Really nice firm cheese with grilled flavors and a satiating, meaty texture.
- Fava Fritters (pan fried chic peas with scallions, feta, herbs and spices): These actually went nicely with the cold spreads above.
- Kalamaraki (grilled squid in lemon oil, served over greens): Perfectly cooked squid with great texture and grill flavors. The kalamata olives in the salad really make this dish pop.
Thalassina (From the Sea)
- Lavraki (grilled whole branzino with lemon oil dressing): Great flavors here. Super tender and flaky fish, light and satisfying. Bones were easy to maneuver and skin had a good crisp in parts.
- Gigandes (white beans baked in tomato, onion and dill sauce): This almost tasted like Italian Minestrone soup due to the tomato sauce. Very nice.
- Lemon Potatoes (red potatoes roasted in lemon, oil and herbs): My favorite of the sides. The lemon on all the dishes was never overpowering. Here, it had a bit more kick but it was just what I wanted to cut the starch of the potatoes.
- Grilled Veggies (eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions and garlic)
- Okra (braised in tomato basil sauce with crumbled feta)
- Baklava (walnuts and almonds wrapped in phyllo with honey syrup): Usually baklava is overly saturated with honey and rose water, to the point where one or two bites has me puckering up due to the overbearing sweetness. This one was perfect, and I liked that the phyllo wasn’t extremely crispy.
I’m not in Brooklyn very often, but this joint is located right near the F/G stop at Carroll Street, so it’s very convenient to access from most areas around the city. In fact, I think door to door it took me about 29 minutes to get there, so I’ll definitely be back when I need a good Greek fix, especially for some octopus. On this trip, I was invited in for a press review: a complimentary meal in exchange for an honest review. My honest review: excellent Greek fare, highly recommended. Go give it a try.
AVLEE GREEK KITCHEN
349 Smith St
Brooklyn, NY 11231