2012-06-20 / Restaurant of the Week

OVELIA

Ovelia Psistaria and Bar celebrates five and a half years of excellent, modern Greek cuisine made from time honored traditions. The Greek name “Ovelia” means the place you go to grill succulent meats. Almost a religious ritual, Ovelia carries on this tradition in the “Psistaria” or “grill house”, located in the heart of Astoria on the celebrated 30th Avenue. Ovelia puts a decidedly modern twist on Greek and American specialty grilled meats, fish, chicken, salads, sandwiches and an array of appetizers to please everyone. Look for the sunny orange market umbrellas shading patrons sipping chic cocktails, cold beer and fine wine. The Happy Hour specials can’t be beat, with $6 cocktails, $5 wines, and $4 beers served Monday to Friday from 5am to 9pm. The décor inside is cool and modern, yet classic, with a service bar that opens to the sidewalk for al fresco service. Brothers Chris and Peter Giannakas run a tight ship and keep guests happy both in the front and back of the house. The food is consistently delicious and beautifully presented and the service is very attentive.

We started with a gorgeous pitcher of sangria, laced with diced fruit, and our glasses were constantly replenished by our friendly waiter. There are nearly two dozen appetizers or “meze”, both hot and cold, to choose among and they’re all sized to share. Colleen, the friendly manager suggested fried feta cubes and we were astounded by these beautiful cubes of savory feta cheese encrusted in sesame seeds, drizzled with Greek honey. The juxtaposition of salty, sweet and toasted sesame seeds made my mouth water ($9.50). Kafteri poppers offer a modern take on jalapeño poppers, filled with kafteri cheese and coated in a light, crunchy batter. Peter suggested the house made, special sausage called loukaniko, mildly spiced and grilled to crispy perfection, served in bite size slices. The grilled calamari is one of my favorites as I love the flavor the grill imparts. Many choose the fried calamari for its crispy crunch. Cold appetizers include a selection of Greek dips made from eggplant, potato and garlic and caviar. Salads at Ovelia could be one course or a meal, such as the vaca frita; Cuban style shredded skirt steak served on a bed of mixed greens, topped with lentils, olives and chopped onion. The Ovelia salad combines Romaine, tomato and cucumber with roasted eggplant, zucchini, onions, red peppers and walnuts.

With more than five years in business, several house specialties have emerged and I can’t say enough about the lamb and fig kebab whose taste and texture is truly unique. The take-out brochure actually features the recipe

for this dish, but I’d rather come to Ovelia to have it, made by the experts. First, the lamb is sublimely tender, and has been marinated for hours. The skewers are laced with chunks of this delicious lamb, candied figs, yellow squash and cherry tomatoes for an exciting blend of flavors and textures. Another example of their inventiveness is the Greek coffee skirt steak, marinated in yes, Greek coffee to render the meat tender and impart a special flavor before it hits the grill ($22). This 14-ounce steak is served with your choice of side dish. Olive brined pork is also mouth-watering, served with a multi-grain potato-bread dumplings and sweet chutney ($18). Next time I’ll try the “lamburgini” a juicy burger made from mildly spiced, ground lamb, topped with crimini mushrooms and feta cheese. Rock ‘n’ Ribs Wednesdays have them coming back week after week for these house-smoked ribs whose meat just slides off the bone. The very generous portion comes with two side dishes and corn bread for just $25.95. On Wednesdays you can also get their fantastic organic buttermilk fried chicken, pulled pork or chicken sandwich, po’ boy sandwiches and more. Rock music accompanies the evening and everyone leaves happy.

Keep it light with the freshest fish and seafood, including whole, grilled red snapper, porgie and sea bass. All these fresh fish need is a basting of olive oil, sea salt and lemon. Organic pasta is topped with sautéed calamari, shrimp and clams in a light tomato sauce, finished with a splash of ouzo ($20).

At lunchtime or anytime, dig into one of their sandwiches, built on homemade bread called “tiropita”. The fiesta-grilled chicken is exceptional on this warm bread, covered with cheddar cheese, avocado, jalapeño and tomato with a smear of cilantro-lime mayo ($13). I love the pulled pork sandwich, made in the Ovelia tradition and piled onto ciabatta bread, served with apple-cabbage cole slaw and handmade potato chips ($10.50). The kobe beef sliders are addictive and perfect with cocktails for late night munchies.

A lovely brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30am to 5:00pm and uses organic eggs and local dairy products to create the “ Yiayia” omelet with feta cheese, corn flap- jacks, stuffed French toast filled with Greek yogurt, honey and fruit, and a variety of sandwiches.

For dessert or anytime you have a sweet tooth, indulge on one of Ovelia’s decadent creations. Peter’s “PB&B” combines layers of rich devil’s food cake, banana cream and peanut butter cream for a layer cake that is divine. House made ‘loukoumades’ are balls of fried dough doused in honey; ambrosia for the gods. Come for a robust coffee drink and a crepe filled with fruit, chocolate, or yogurt, honey and walnuts. You don’t need an excuse to visit Ovelia for anything from a cocktail to a full meal. With excellent food, décor and service, Ovelia is the place to be!

PSISTARIA AND BAR

34-01 30th Avenue, Astoria
(718) 721-7217

www.ovelia-ny.com

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