2010-03-17 / Restaurant of the Week

Psari Seafood Restuarant and Bar

Psari, which simply means “fish” in Greek, offers a new wave in seafood restaurants. Psari is a total redux of Greek Captain, the establishment that preceded it. The humble owner, John (Yanni) Vullis, closed the eatery for three months while extensive renovations were being done. Psari opened with its new name and new look just two weeks ago and already accommodated a packed house the night I visited. The stunning interior features dark wood floors, a modern bar and sleek, high bar tables at the front to enjoy their refreshing cocktails, wine and beer along with Greek meze. The dining room is chic and comfortable with retro modern tables and suspended light fixtures that emit a warm glow. Creamy white walls adorned with tasteful framed photos of abstract sea life are placed above striped banquettes with leather seating. The overall look is warm and sophisticated but very approachable, given the reasonable prices.

It’s all about the fish here, obviously, and the variety and freshness will keep diners coming back again and again. We started with their famous grilled octopus which is tender and juicy and nicely charred on the outside, thanks to its preparation on the charcoal grill. Maryland crab cakes are popular and deliciously seasoned, as are the baked clams topped with lots of breadcrumbs. A Greek specialty called “Atherina” is a tiny dish of smelts, fried until crisp and golden, just like fries. From the raw bar, choose briny fresh oysters or clams, sold by the half dozen and served with wedges of lemon and cocktail sauce. A bowl of creamy shrimp bisque or seafood soup is soulwarming during these lingering cold days. We saw diners nearby sharing an order of fried zucchini croquettes and savory Saganaki, which is a hefty slice of sautéed Kefaalograveria cheese finished with brandy ($8). Psari’s grilled vegetables, steamed beets and wonderful salads are ideal for sharing as a first course or side dish to any meal. I love the classic Greek salad with creamy feta cheese and olives, available in three sizes and a must for every meal.

Whether it’s broiled, grilled or fried, Psari’s fish can’t be beat. Fresh catches of the day are displayed on ice up front and include red snapper, sea bass, porgy, swordfish, salmon, sole and halibut. A quick pass on the charcoal grill, with a drizzling of quality olive oil and lemon are all these fish need to bring out their natural flavors. The menu offers plenty of tempting choices in shellfish too. Plump shrimp are stuffed and prepared in a garlic butter scampi sauce, or laced onto wooden skewers with peppers, onions and tomatoes for the shrimp kebab that I ordered ($22). The grilled calamari is tender and the ocean scallops are sweet and juicy. Have a crack at the King crab legs or lobster and dip their sweet meat into melted butter and lemon for a delicious treat.

Few can resist the crunch of fried shrimp, crispy fried fillet of sole and golden fish and chips, made with flaky fish and hand sliced potatoes. All entrees at Psari are served with warm garlic bread and your choice of their fabulous lemon potatoes, baked potato, French fries, Greek style potato chips, rice or vegetables, making a complete meal.

Land lubbers will be happy to know that there are also some meat options at Psari. Juicy lamb chops are cooked to order on the grill and need only a squeeze of lemon or sprinkle of salt. T-bone steak or a 6-ounce filet mignon will also do nicely. You can even pair that filet mignon with a half lobster for a surf and turf treat. Organic roasted chicken is another comforting dish that goes so well with the lemon potatoes.

Psari is open seven days a week from 11am for lunch and dinner. The kitchen stays open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays for late night dining, and until midnight the rest of the week. The fish is fresh and nicely prepared, the service is friendly and efficient and the wine list, cocktails and beer complement your meal. Credit cards are now accepted with a $20 minimum. When warm weather arrives, the glass doors will open to offer al fresco dining. Now, during Lent, or anytime, their motto is “Eat Fish and Live Longer.” Words to live by and eat by!

PSARI SEAFOOD RESTAURANT AND BAR

32-10 36th Avenue
Astoria • 718.786.6015

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