2011-11-09 / Restaurant of the Week

Exo Greek Mediterranean Bistro

Exo Greek Mediterranean Restaurant is an oasis of fine cuisine and wine in a sophisticated, cozy setting in the quiet community of Whitestone. Warm, sun-dappled walls are decorated with stained glass sconces and framed mirrors. The bilevel dining room allows for family dining as well as intimate dining, or dine outside in the new, glass-enclosed, heated atrium. The name “Exo” means outside and indeed the expansive outdoor patio is the star of the show in warm weather. Brothers George and Jim Isaakidis welcome families, friends and couples to dine on Chef Constantine Kalandranis’ inventive cuisine, which takes classic Greek dishes and gives them an undeniably modern, fresh twist.

You’ll be very warmly greeted by Buck, the amiable manager, and treated to excellent service throughout your entire meal. Enjoy a cocktail, beer or bottle of reasonably priced wine from the cellar and settle in for a fabulous meal. An impressive array of “meze” or appetizers comprises half the menu and one could easily make a meal by ordering a variety of them. In fact, the chef prepared a tasting menu of all his creations, to our delight. A long, rectangular tray was presented with a number of house made spreads, such as the hummus, which is smooth and light. Melitzanosalata is bright with the flavors of fresh eggplant, onion and herbs. Taramosalata, a type of caviar dip, is light and fresh here, as is the tzatziki yogurt and cucumber dip. Perhaps one of my favorites was a new take on “skordalia”, a potato and garlic dip, made with red skin potatoes, lightly scented with garlic so as not to overwhelm the palate. Best of all, these sa vory dips arrived with a basket of the chef’s homemade pita bread, lightly grilled and

served warm. More meze arrived, each presented in a tiny castiron skillet. Homemade potato chips undergo a lengthy process to make them so impossibly crunchy, lightly seasoned with herbs and a sprinkling of cheese. Once you dip them into the tzatziki sauce, you won’t be able to stop eating them.

Warm appetizers included tender grilled octopus with roasted garlic, capers and wine vinegar ($13). Sautéed tiger shrimp are made with white wine, capers and parsley sauce that begged to be soaked up with more bread ($11). We loved the Greek style meatballs called “keftedes” and crispy potato croquettes. Tiny handmade ravioli are stuffed with creamy feta cheese, roasted garlic and mint for unique flavor and texture. We also sampled the fall pumpkin tortellini as an appetizer, offered as a main course. These tender pillows of pasta were filled with sweet pumpkin and topped with a savory sauce. Everything is seasoned just right to allow the fresh flavors of the food to come through.

I appreciate one-page menus and Exo’s includes the best in fish, meat, and chicken dishes to please everyone. Ask about the whole fish of the day, which may be branzino, red snapper, porgy or a sea bass, grilled and served with vegetables and wedges of lemon. Roasted white snapper is a treat, resting on a bed of seasonal beans, mint and herbs. Pan seared salmon is served with eggplant and red roasted peppers.

Top quality meats include a slow cooked pork shank with onions and tomato. Grilled lamb for two is a big hit, combining juicy lamb chops, lamb sausage, horta and lemon potatoes. If you feel more comfortable with classics, try the new souvlaki trio, with chicken, hanger steak and pork laced onto wood skewers and served with tzatziki and pita ($17). The 14-ounce rib-eye will please any meat lover, served with potatoes and cooked to order. The chef will prepare a tasting menu for you

with either five or seven courses, with a wine pairing if you wish. This is a great way to sample many of the inventive dishes at Exo.

Exo is proud to offer a Mediterranean style Family Dinner on Sundays from noon until 3pm. Each Sunday a whole roasted pig, lamb or goat is offered with a wide selection of side dishes. This four course feast costs just $30 per person and is well-attended. You may also have brunch here on Sundays, with dinner service commencing in the evening.

All desserts are made in house and are hard to resist. The creamy rice pudding is delicious and the galaktoborekia pastry has a light flaky crust with creamy custard filling. Finish your meal with espresso, cappuccino or American coffee and tea. Visit at lunch time when you can enjoy wonderful dips, salads and sandwiches made with specialty sausages straight off the grill. Fresh tomato salad, Caesar or arugula salads can be ordered as is, or topped with grilled chicken or steak. House made flaky pies are featured each day with spinach, cheese or meat fillings. Enjoy lunch inside, on the patio, or take it to go.

Make any day or night special with a visit to Exo Greek Mediterranean Restaurant. They’re located just off the Cross Island Parkway and Whitestone Expressway. Enjoy lunch or dinner seven days a week from noon to 10pm weeknights and until 11pm on weekends. Don’t forget the incredible Sunday Family Dinner from noon until 3pm for just $30 per person. Life is meant to be lived. Get outside at Exo!

15-16 149th Street
Whitestone  718.767.4396

www.exorestaurant.com

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