2011-08-03 / Restaurant of the Week

PSARI SEAFOOD RESTAURANT AND BAR

32-10 36th Avenue, Astoria  718.786.6015

A ugust is typically “vacation time” for many people around the world, a time when people pack up and leave for blue waters, fine dining and relaxation.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, if you’re like me, and are Queens-bound during August, you can at least have a “vacation night out” by dining at Psari

Seafood Restaurant and Bar on 36th Avenue in Astoria. With the freshest array of fish and seafood, a great selection of frosty cocktails, a cool, whitewashed dining room and outdoor tables out front, Psari will make you feel like you’ve been away, if even for just one meal. Even the name Psari (SA-ree) means “fish” in Greek and is your spot for guaranteed delicious seafood, though there are plenty of meat and vegetable dishes as well so there’s something for everyone. Start your “stay-cation” with a cool, refreshing cocktail like the minty mojitos that we had, made with mulled lime, rum and mint for a refreshing start on a summer night. These tasty mojitos can also be flavored with fresh fruit purees including mango and strawberry. The French martini gets a special splash of Chambourd, while the banana boat is pure Caribbean with coconut rum, pineapple and banana liqueur.

Enjoy the cool, whitewashed interior of the dining room, adorned with sea motifs and a bar area up front with barheight tables for less formal nibbling. From here, you can see the iced case with the fresh catches of the day: red snapper, porgy, sea bass, oysters, clams and gorgeous langosta. We chose to eat outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. Stella, our lovely server, could not have been nicer or more pleasant and helpful, making selecting from the extensive menu a breeze. All of her suggestions were perfect. Before we knew it, a selection of fresh, house made dips arrived, arranged on a beautiful platter. Melitzanosalata (eggplant salad), taramosalata (caviar salad), tzatziki yogurt dip and skordalia (potato and garlic dip) made a beautiful start, served with triangles of warm pita bread ($15). Psari’s grilled octopus will convert even non-believers for its distinct charcoal crust, impossible tenderness, flavor and simple olive oil and vinegar dressing ($15). Next we tried their zucchini fritters, light and golden, perfect with a dollop of tzatziki sauce on top ($9). We hear the baked clams and hand made crab cakes are excellent, requiring another visit for sure! A classic Greek salad belongs on the table for all to enjoy, full of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, kalamata olives and hot pepperoncini.

Yanni Vullis, the very kind and friendly owner, brought over an iced platter with Blue Point oysters and meaty clams on the half shell for us to enjoy, which we did, in short order, topped with cocktail sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Traditional Greek red and white wines are available, as well as a nice selection of American and European wines to complement your meal.

For your entrée, you can’t go wrong with any of the fresh catches of the day. Red snapper, porgy, and black sea bass are prepared whole, on the charcoal grill, basted with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon and herbs for the perfect vacation meal. Fillets of tilapia, sea bass and salmon, for example, can be prepared either broiled with garlic and butter, or grilled with olive oil and lemon juice. We delighted in the special “langouste” of the night, which is a cross between a giant crayfish and a small lobster, without claws. This gift of the sea was amazing, split lengthwise and grilled whole so that the shell is imbued with a tasty charcoal flavor and the sweet meat inside just melts in your mouth. What a treat! For fans of king crab legs, they’ll prepare a generous helping for you. The broiled combination features salmon fillet, flounder fillet, plump scallops and shrimp fit for a king. We had some of the house lemon potatoes as an accompaniment, or you may choose baked potato, fries, rice or green vegetables.

Diners at the next table took to the land and ordered 16- ounce T-bone steak and baby lamb chops, both served sizzling hot and prepared to order. There is even a 32-ounce Porterhouse for the meat and potatoes kind of person. Keep it simple with grilled chicken paillard over Greek or garden salad. Other entrées include handmade salmon burgers, swordfish kebabs and spaghetti with shrimp. Even the kids will eat fried shrimp in a basket or classic fish and chips.

At lunchtime an impressive lunch special is served from 11am to 4pm. For just $13 enjoy a fish or seafood entrée, Greek salad, garlic bread and choice of potato or rice. For dessert, we sampled their house made “galaktobourekia”, phyllo pastry filled with a sweet custard, scented with honey. A variety of refreshing fruit sorbettos is available as well as rich and creamy cheesecake, red velvet cheesecake, black and white mousse cake and tiramisu.

Take a trip to vacation-style dining without a passport or the expense. Just bring your appetite and a love for great seafood served in a comfortable, relaxed restaurant right here in town at Psari Seafood Restaurant and Bar. All aboard!

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