2017-06-21 / Restaurant of the Week

The Thirsty Koala

Bask in the breezes on the outdoor patio at The Thirsty Koala, while you quench your thirst with one of their inventive cocktails, available during Happy Hour for just $5. “Gimme a Push” with rum, coconut, cucumber, and lime is the perfect summer drink, as is the “Gingeroo” with ginger beer, gin, and fresh lime juice. Two new cocktails have yet to be named but just ask for the “Blanchett” or the bourbon-cinnamon tea and you’ll be delighted. Coopers Australian pale ale, wines, and well drinks are flowing between 4-9pm at Happy Hour prices.

The Thirsty Koala is owned by a trio of friends: Kathy, the Executive Chef and Urban Farmer, Alex, the Barman, and Christine, the hummingbird, who buzzes from table to table, doting on guests like family. Since its opening four and a half years ago, the Thirsty Koala has promised to “change the world one bite at a time.” With a truly unique menu, based on Australian classics, Greek touches, and American cuisine made with locally sourced, wholesome, unprocessed ingredients, you simply can’t go wrong with a meal here. The sleek, natural décor invites you in to relax and settle in with a “Hooley Dooley” caipirinha while you peruse the menu.

Chef Kathy Fuchs was excited for us to try some of the new additions to the menu, and so we happily obliged. First off, there’s a flatbread of the day, which was piled abundantly with fresh spinach, feta cheese, and dill. These flatbreads are ideal for the table to share along with the new haloumi fries, made with savory, pan-fried haloumi cheese topped with clover honey and toasted sesame seeds. Next the tender octopus salad is grilled, then tossed with blood oranges, fennel, and capers for a nod to Christine’s Greek-Australian roots and the chef’s creativity. Duckling drumettes take a twist on chicken wings. These Long Island duck mini drumsticks are bathed in delicious blackberry and ginger glaze, topped with delicate watercress. Our neighbors at the adjacent table shared platters of sliders, both grassfed beef and free-range chicken, served on fluffy, mini brioche buns, with chipotle aioli. Thea’s meatballs remain on the menu, due to their fabulous taste and popularity. Classic crispy calamari are dusted with a gluten-free flour blend and served with sweet chili and Thai basil yogurt sauce ($13.50). Indeed, gluten-frees, vegetarians, and vegans alike can flock to the Thirsty Koala, with an ever-increasing variety of options for them.

Dinner entrées go from light to very serious, with options that include Boomerang Tacos filled with Australian, grass-fed steak, wild Pacific cod, or the vegan taco filled with chili, avocado, walnuts, cabbage and cilantro. “Jaffles” are Aussie sandwiches made on freshly baked bread and served with a salad or hand-cut fries. Jaffles are filled with free-range chicken, steak, or grilled vegetables. Warm, organic quinoa and cauliflower salad will make you forget that there’s no meat or gluten in it. It’s simply delicious with nutty quinoa, cauliflower, spicy arugula, avocado, tomato, onion, sriracha and tahini dressing ($13.75). The Thirsty Koala burgers require two hands and an empty stomach, made from grass-fed beef or free-range chicken. There’s even a Quinoa Vegan burger, so eat freely!

Classic dinner entrees that bring me back include their herb crusted Australian, grass-fed lamb “Lollies”, or little chops that you can pick up like Lollie pops. This tender, earthy meat is sublime with a smattering of walnut pesto on top and a squeeze of fresh lemon. The accompanying caramelized pumpkin with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds make this dish one-of-a-kind in Queens or New York City for that matter. Fish plays a big part in Aussie cuisine and the Koala’s salmon en papillote is a house standard, baked in parchment paper with sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, garlic, olive and oil and herbs. The Pacific codfish and chips is beer-battered and served with hand-cut fries (gluten-free). Next time I’ll try the ginger braised citrus salmon fillet, pan seared with soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, and baby bok choy. Perhaps the star of the show for us were the Australian King Prawns, which resembled mini lobsters, and have an unparalleled sweetness and tenderness. They were simply grilled to perfection so that the sweet meat easily pulled out of its crustacean shell. If you see them on the menu, I urge you to order them for yet another one-of-a-kind, culinary experience. We also shared one of the new and vegan options on the menu called “Papoutzakia,” which is a whole eggplant, cut in half, filled with vegetables and herbs, then baked until golden. The leftovers made an excellent lunch the next day.

For dessert, we shared sticky date bread, homemade of course, and served with vanilla ice cream. Stop in for lunch or dinner on weekdays (no lunch service on Monday). Weekend brunch is served from 11:00am to 3:30pm and offers a “Sheep Shearer’s Breakfast” with three eggs, bacon or sausage, grilled tomato and hand-cut fries. Try any of their three-egg omelets or corn fritters Benedict and $4 brunch cocktails.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Rachel Mukon from the Hellgate Farm, which is Queens’ first residential and rooftop garden collaboration. Chef Kathy is a huge supporter and does her best to incorporate as much locally grown produce into her dishes as possible. Please visit their farm stand out at Socrates Sculpture Garden on Saturdays, where you’ll find Queens-raised produce and honey to nourish your soul and delight your family. (www.hellgatefarm.com)

The Thirsty Koala should be on your list of favorite places in Astoria. They’re open from 11am to 11pm on weeknights and until midnight on weekends. A visit to The Thirsty Koala is a unique experience that will make you want to come back for more…just like a boomerang! Better still, the prices are very affordable, and they’re just steps away from the N/W train Ditmars station. Check out their website or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

35-12 Ditmars Boulevard
Astoria  718.626.5430

www.thethirstykoala.com

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