Category Archives: Greek

Death Avenue

I’ve been meaning to check out Death Avenue because I was always intrigued by the name. Death Avenue was the notorious nickname given to 10th Avenue due to all of the railway deaths that occurred there in the old days, when trains ran vertically up and down the avenue to service the warehouse and meat packing districts.

In any event, the joint is Greek-inspired, but also had some classic American staples like burgers and BBQ.

The cocktail list is excellent.

I tried the Banana Bourbon, which was light and smooth, and definitely banana-infused. My wife tried the Mastiha Mint (Mastiha is a kind of tree – its sap or extract is used in the drink). It was refreshing like a mojito.

We started with fried pickles. Pretty basic. The dips were interesting: a BBQ cause, tzatziki and some kind of hollandaise-isa sauce. The pickles were tasty, but the batter slipped off too easily.

My wife ordered the 8 Hour Octopus app as her entree. This was pricey at about $26, but it was tasty and somewhat substantial enough to eat as an entree if needed.

I had the Feta Burger. This was stacked way too tall, but overall it was a decent enough burger to satisfy my cravings. The oregano fries that came with it were great.

I’d say this was a great place to have a few drinks and snacks, but I’d skip making a whole meal out of it.

DEATH AVENUE
315 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10001

Korali Estiatorio

With a name that means “coral,” it’s only fitting that Korali Estiatorio, a neighborhood gem for authentic Greek food on the upper east side, features a variety of fresh seafood fit for the gods.

Owner Gregori Politis hails from Lefkada, in the Ionian Sea. After 20 years in the hospitality business, he now brings the authentic recipes of his childhood to the masses of NYC. Chef Peter Tsaglis headed up prominent New York City kitchens. Peter focuses on seafood, and has a passion for amazing ingredients and flavors. His upbringing and travels across the Greek islands influenced his style of traditional cooking blended with modern and contemporary fare.

The interior was designed with Mykanos in mind, a seaside town on an island of the same name, which is known for its bright white architecture.

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The bar is stocked with Greek spirits and wines from rare varietals that are uncommon here in the states, like Assyrtiko and Agiogitiko.

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With Greek music playing on the sound system and the invigorating scent of fresh seafood in the air, you really do feel like you are being transported to the Greek Isles.

Okay so let me get to the food… We started with some tzatziki and pita bread. The yogurt this joint uses is so thick, rich and awesome. This had just the right amount of spices and flavorings added, so that our mouths were spared of garlic overload. I really enjoyed this.

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In honor of the joint’s focus on seafood, we did not delve into any meats. I know: blasphemy for me! Perhaps next time I will go hard into the lamb dishes, though.

For our meze courses we had grilled octopus and stuffed calamari. The grilled octopus was so tender and perfectly cooked. It came on a bean puree and was seasoned gently with olive oil and lemon, and sprinkled with capers. Really delicious, and probably one of the better octopus dishes I’ve had in a while. And it was a good sized portion, with about two large tentacles chopped up on the plate.

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I couldn’t resist ordering the stuffed calamari.

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When I was a kid, my family would do the traditional Italian fish dinner for Christmas. My grandparents were the main drivers of that meal, and I would help my grandfather clean all the shrimp, scungili and squid for prep. But my grandma would take the time to make stuffed calamari. She would take the cleaned squid tubes, fill them with a cheese, breadcrumb and meat stuffing, and literally stitch the ends closed with a needle and black thread. Then they went into a skillet for browning on all sides before getting plopped into a low simmering tomato sauce that was filled with crab legs and other shellfish. Before serving, she would pull out the black thread and the calamari would stay pinched closed, holding in the delicious stuffing. It really was a painstaking and amazing effort, and I’ve never seen anything like it since. Until now, until Korali.

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This Greek version is stuffed with spinach and feta, but still served in a tomato sauce. Rather than a traditional stewed style Italian red sauce, this one contained mainly sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. It was a really exciting profile of flavors, and this was hands-down my favorite dish of the night. I highly recommend this!

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For our entree, we ordered a whole grilled fish for two that was on special: “pink snapper” from the Mediterranean Sea.

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The skin was crisp and savory, and the meat was tender, flaky and cooked nicely. It was simply dressed with olive oil, lemon and Greek seasonings, and then topped with capers.

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We cleaned this baby off entirely, even busting into the face to get some of that delicious and succulent cheek meat.

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This fish for two also came with two sides. We picked garlic sauteed spinach and Greek fries. The fries were crisp and had a nice herb and garlic flavor.

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The spinach was sauteed just right, retaining that great “green” flavor without over-wilting the leaves. Also, the garlic was again not overpowering and added just the right amount of flavor to the dish. These guys know what they’re doing in the kitchen!

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For dessert, we got to try an assortment of three items: Greek yogurt with honey and berries, baklava and semolina custard in phyllo (Galactoboureco). By far my favorite of the three was that delicious, thick and creamy yogurt again. This sweet version was the perfect way to bookend the meal after starting with the savory tzatziki version at the beginning of the meal.

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But the baklava was the best my wife and I have had. Usually this dessert is soaked with honey, and that just kills the texture and flavor of the nuts, making everything too sweet and soft. Not here at Korali! These had a cookie-like crunch to them, and I found myself smearing some of the yogurt onto them to make it a double whammy dessert. So damn good!

Overall this was a really great meal, light and satisfying. This is a great place for the UES neighborhood. I don’t live nearby, but I would definitely go back in a heartbeat.

One thing that really got my attention about this place is that you can pre-order a whole roasted goat every Friday, which is locally sourced from upstate. I will definitely be back for this with my crew from The Carcass Club.

In addition, Korali now offers a prix-fix lunch deal Wednesday through Friday, as well as brunch on weekends, with a choice of starter, entree and dessert.

Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review; all opinions expressed are my own.

KORALI ESTIATORIO
1662 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10128

Jimbo’s Restaurant & Bar

Jimbo’s is a spacious neighborhood Greek bar and restaurant in Astoria, right near the Astoria Blvd subway stop. Inside there’s a nice long bar that serves up all the standard favorites, along with some Greek specialty cocktails, like Ouzo lemonade, which is a must try. From what I understand, some nights they have live music and dancing, late into the wee hours, 11pm-4am.

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Large door-style windows grace the street-side of the joint, which open up nice and big on sunny days – a real treat for the tables situated along the window. We saw a rainbow after a downpour.

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With a focus on fresh ingredients, Jimbo’s serves up some really nice cold spreads for snacking with pita bread at the start of your meal. We tried a trio with a salmon caviar spread, tzatziki and a potato spread.

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All were excellent, but the standout was probably the caviar spread. It was fluffy, light and had a natural brine flavor from the roe. This is a great deal for $10 and the amount that you get.

Speaking of good deals, appetizer portions are massive here, so be warned! We tried the grilled octopus and grilled sausage apps, and by time we were ready to receive the entrees, we were almost at full capacity. In fact we had to take some of the sausage home!

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The sausage was really excellent. It almost reminded me of blood sausage at times, but without the mealy texture that you can sometimes experience with that. It was spiced with really aromatic stuff like cumin, and had a robust and perfectly grilled earthy flavor. I would even love this chopped up a bit finer and served in a pita with tzatziki, cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. Perfection. Perhaps that item would be a nice fit for the lunch menu?

Jimbo’s offers a really interesting Greek burger on a pita with melted feta, which I had ordered, but I think that is really only offered on the weekend brunch menu. So instead I was served a standard burger with fries. I added some tzatziki on top from the cold spreads to boost it up a bit, since it didn’t have cheese.

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My wife had this really nice baked casserole dish with lamb and orzo called Arni Youvesti.

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It comes with a dish of grated parmesan cheese for the top, which is key, because it adds the necessary salt element into the dish. My advice is to pour it all in! The lamb was cooked perfectly. It was extremely tender and the meat was high quality.

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And the orzo underneath was a nice way to make this into a hearty stew. The pasta really took on the flavor of the tasty tomato sauce.

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Another enticing dish on the casserole menu is Arni Kleftiko, which is lamb with potatoes, herbs and lemon in extra virgin olive oil. Unfortunately, they did not have this available when we came for dinner, but I’d definitely try that on another trip.

The dessert menu also has some great looking items. In particular, Loukoumades, which is lightly fried dough served with honey and cinnamon: Greek zeppoles. And Galaktobouriko, which is baked Greek custard cream in phyllo dough and honey syrup. They were out of Loukoumades, and we initially planned to get that and Galaktobouriko. But after our entrees, we were too stuffed to even think about dessert! Next time we will know to manage the large portions a little more carefully so that we have room for dessert and Greek coffee.

FYI: Jimbo’s served us a free meal in exchange for an honest review.

JIMBO’S RESTAURANT & BAR
3005 Astoria Blvd
Astoria, NY 11102

Avlee Greek Kitchen

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.

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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)

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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.

Orektika (Appetizers)

  • Tiropita (feta and egg wrapped in phyllo): these were fun and tasty little bites.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Fava Fritters (pan fried chic peas with scallions, feta, herbs and spices): These actually went nicely with the cold spreads above.

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Salates (Salad)

  • 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.

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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.

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Sinotheftika (Sides)

  • 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)

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Glyka (Dessert)

  • 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.

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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

Kefi

UPDATE: THIS PLACE IS NOW CLOSED

One of the very first flash deals my wife and I ever tried was here at Kefi, many years ago. We seem to recall liking it. Occasionally they still offer the same deal: one appetizer, two entrees, a side and a dessert. So we picked up the deal and went there this past weekend.

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I sampled a pair of Greek brews over the course of the meal. Both were good. The first was a lager and the second was an unfiltered wheat beer. The wheat beer, $3 more at $10, was the better of the two in my opinion, but the Keo was refreshing, like a Yuengling.

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We started the meal with a classic Mediterranean and Greek staple: grilled octopus on a bed of beans (chic peas and black eyed peas).

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This was fantastic. The char added a great crisp for texture and a lightly ashed flavor to the outer edges of the ‘pus. The meat was tender with no chewiness to it. Coated with a generous to borderline over-the-top amount of lemon juice, parsley and scallions, it was bright with flavor.

My entree was a complete let down, unfortunately. I went with the hanger steak.

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It looks good enough, but the meat was so fucking tough that I had to actually spit several bites out onto the plate. Gnawing at steak is not cool. On top of that, the steak actually had a bitter flavor, from the copious amounts of lemon and the soaking contact with the broccoli rabe beneath.

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I managed to get a good amount of the steak down my gullet by sawing at the hard grain across the bias, furiously shaking the table in the process, and focusing mostly on the overcooked bits that were on either end of the steak (they were easier to cut). Very disappointing. In sum, it was under-seasoned, bitter, over-cooked in some parts, under-cooked in other parts, and tough as fuck. This was actually the worst steak I’ve eaten in all my years of dining in NYC, and I’ve even had steaks at Tad’s! I’m giving it 3/10.

On the plus side, the steak did come with a split and grilled sausage, which was pretty decent, and sort of fulfilled my desire for meat.

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My wife had the better entree: braised lamb shank with orzo.

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The meat was super tender and had a rich stew-like flavor to it. Luckily, she wasn’t able to finish, so I had a good amount of this to tide me over from that lame steak.

On the side, we shared this order of roasted cauliflower. Nothing to get too excited about, and nothing to complain about either.

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For dessert we shared this chocolate mousse with sesame ice cream.

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Eventually, the chocolate flavors overpowered the light sesame flavors in the ice cream, which was unfortunate because I really enjoyed that sesame ice cream. The first few bites, when combined, reminded me of halvah. This dessert could be a huge hit if they pump up the sesame flavors or tone down the chocolate flavors to strike a better balance.

So, in conclusion, I suggest sticking with the staple Greek proteins – octopus and lamb – if you dine here. Those two dishes were great.

KEFI
505 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10024

Greek Easter

This year a friend of mine invited me over to his parents’ house to partake in the delicious food associated with Greek Easter. Namely, an entire lamb roasting on a spit!

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The crazy thing was that while I was getting ready to head over to his house, another friend of mine started texting me photos of a Greek joint on the upper east side that was spit-roasting a lamb right on the sidewalk. Awesome!

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Anyway, here’s a quick shot of what the lamb looked like once my buddy’s’ dad broke it down into more easily devourable portions:

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I actually meant to shoot some video of the fucker’s head spinning round and round on the spit, sizzling away over the coals… but we got to reminiscing and catching up, so the cell phone never really made it out of my pocket.

There was a lot of other awesome shit too, like lamb gyro meat, minced pork, meat skewers, spanakopita (spinach pies), toasted garlic pita bread, cheese pies, lemon and herb roasted potatoes, and amazing baklava desserts. I was actually surprised that the bottle of ouzo I brought was the only one on site! Needless to say, we killed that thing.

Parea Prime

Parea Prime overall score: 83

NOTE: This restaurant is now CLOSED.
Flavor: 8
I had the rib eye, as usual. it was really nicely cooked, tender, juicy, delicious. The only downside was that the meat was a little bit tight. Not tough, but maybe it didn’t have as much marbling as I had hoped. Also the fat cap was a little bit on the smaller side than I usually like, and less of it was edible than normal. Overall though I really enjoyed my steak (8/10). I tried some of the lamb chops, braised short rib, and the porterhouse as well – all were good, though the porterhouse was a bit overcooked (6/10).
RIB EYE

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9

The quality here is all prime, and supposedly hand selected by Pat LaFrieda himself! The online menu showed a rib eye for two, but they didn’t have it at the restaurant. Otherwise they had all the basics; porterhouse for multiple even numbers of diners, filet, strip, and rib eye. They also had some alternative meats like pork (which they were out of), veal, lamb and braised short rib. A nice selection.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

With the exception of the sides, the portions are all very generous, and the plating is up to par with other more modern, elegant steakhouses. I’d say my rib eye was upwards of 22oz.
PORTER

Price: 8

I can’t really complain at all here. At the end of the meal we were given some free booze (see service section). The rib eye was a bit pricey in my opinion, but the other steaks seemed fair (as well as the drinks). See the rest below:
BILL
Bar: 8
The bar is nice, though I wonder if the place would have been better arranged if they put the bar closer to the street/windows that in the back. They mixed a good martini though, and they have a great selection of house cocktails that looked (and tasted) great. My martini was $12, which, after spending $20 last week at Del Frisco’s, seemed like a steal (how sad is that?).

Specials and Other Meats: 8

There was no special beef cut, but they did offer some oysters and clams on special. As for other meats, they had braised short rib (which was yummy), lamb chops (also delicious), veal and pork chops (which they were out of).
braised short rib & lamb chops
braised short rib & lamb chops
Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
We started with some slab bacon, which was fatty and delicious. At $5 a slab it was worth it. We also shared some grilled octopus – it was tasty and bright, but it had less char on it than I had expected. Next we had some grilled calamari stuffed with Greek cheeses. These were very nice. During dinner we had some rosemary oregano fries, which were really crisp, aromatic and tasty. We also tried the creamed spinach and sauteed broccoli rabe with feta. Both were excellent, however there was just not enough of it in each order.
APPS
Seafood Selection: 7
They have a decent raw bar and app selection, but other than that it seems to just be sea bass (both Mediterranean and Chilean) and salmon for dinner (along with a crab cake plate).

Service: 10

The service here is absolutely awesome. Our water Salvador was really nice and helpful, and he had great suggestions for drinks and entrees. After dinner we had the great pleasure of chatting with the general manager Jean Christophe for quite a bit of time. He was a chef for many years at various great NYC steakhouses. This man is a class act, and a true gentleman. Both he and our waiter offered us some complimentary after dinner drinks from their high end selections (top notch tequilas and cognacs). I always enjoy meeting the people who run these places. When they truly love the industry it reflects in their service just how much each diner means to them.
Ambiance: 8
The ambiance was nice, but the music was a bit too clubby for my taste. Otherwise everything was neat, well decorated, and elegant – from the tables to the bathrooms. We had a nice big round table in the front of the restaurant, near the windows, and we enjoyed it.