2008-06-04 / Restaurant of the Week


20-01 Steinway Street Astoria
By Teresa Barile

20-01 Steinway Street Astoria • 718.274.9800

This handsome new restaurant provides the visitor with a virtual trip to the Aegean Sea and sundrenched islands, if only for awhile, as you enjoy a wonderful meal. Aegean Cove opened one month ago, just in time to savor the summer season's bounty. Owners George Neofytides and Kosta Blafas have gone to great lengths to create a singular experience in fine Greek cuisine. The warm, sensuous dining room is bathed in rich hues of ochre and burgundy with accent walls of wood and stone. Stately wood tables are dressed in crisp white linens with matching napkins and the service is as classy as the restaurant itself. The kitchen is on full view through sparkling clean glass, and I watched in awe as the expert kitchen staff prepared dish after dish. Upstairs, a large dining room is available for private parties of up to 50 people, and best of all, a spacious outdoor patio invites you to dine al fresco and enjoy a lovely view of the setting sun.

Fine wines from Greece, Italy, France and California are available by the glass or bottle. The bar at the front of the restaurant can also mix your favorite cocktail. I started with a glass of crisp chardonnay, imported from Greece, which went very well with warm triangles of pita bread spread with Aegean Cove's own version of hummus, brought to your table by the professional wait staff.

Greek cuisine has been made famous by its wide array of appetizers or "meze" which are prepared both hot and cold. Executive Chef Christos Christou, who has years of experience in some of Manhattan's finest restaurants, takes meze to another level by combining the freshest ingredients with skillful preparation and beautiful presentation. A salad of warm, grilled octopus is so tender and served in chunks with capers, red peppers, red onion and red wine vinaigrette on a puree of fava beans ($14). Seafood croquettes are already a signature dish at Aegean Cove. These delicately fried croquettes are composed of fresh, flaky cod and shrimp and served with diced beets and skordalia, a creamy garlic dip. Zucchini croquettes are prepared with two Greek cheeses and herbs, delicately fried and served on a puddle of caper yogurt sauce ($10). The house crab cake is fabulous, replete with sweet crabmeat and herbs, served on a bed of fava bean salad and mustard sauce. Jumbo shrimp, simply grilled, get a special kick from the special saffron lemon sauce that is drizzled on.

Tender calamari are lightly pan fried and served with a garlic yogurt sauce. Only the reddest, juiciest tomatoes are used to create the traditional Greek salad, along with onions, cucumbers, green peppers and generous chunks of fine feta cheese. The same tomatoes are paired with savory Manouri cheese and basil for a summer salad that simply can't be beat. Aegean Cove's appetizers are so good, one could easily make a meal of them. Chef Christos prepared a special appetizer of striped bass with olives, artfully spiraled onto a disk of bulgur couscous that was a real treat.

Main courses include succulent meats, the freshest fish and seafood and traditional Greek specialties with a modern twist. Perhaps the best selling entrée is the 22-ounce aged rib-eye steak. Cooked to order and served with lemon potatoes, this steak is served sizzling hot and juicy. Both baby lamb chops and larger Colorado lamb chops are fork tender and cooked to perfection. Bifteki are handmade Greek beef patties seasoned with herbs, cheese and a touch of mint. Whole fish, including red snapper, porgy and daurade are purchased daily and prepared at their peak of freshness with a drizzling of lemon and fine olive oil. Grilled salmon fillet is served with leeks and rice pilaf and flaky sea bass is roasted with tomatoes and onions in a light tomato and wine broth ($24). Grilled shrimp are served with "horta" or dandelion greens and the house's delicious lemon potatoes ($22).

I look forward to my next visit when I'll try some of the traditional Greek dishes such as "youvetsi" or braised lamb shanks with tender noodles or tender peppers stuffed with rice and fresh herbs.

Even moussaka and pastitsio will surprise you with their modern touches on classic dishes.

Desserts are not to be skipped, with kudos for the rich walnut cake, sweetened with honey, and the chocolate baklava. Loukomades are tender, fried morsels of dough, drizzled with honey. The coffee is robust and delicious and an after dinner cordial will end this meal just right.

Come and welcome Aegean Cove to the neighborhood, located on Steinway Street and 20th Avenue. With fine Greek cuisine, a fine selection of wines and excellent service, Aegean will soon be on your list of favorites. Don't forget the outdoor patio upstairs, or the private party room available for your next graduation, shower, anniversary or other joyous event. Aegean Cove is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner from noon until 10pm on weeknights and until 11pm on weekends. Yasoo!

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