2012-10-31 / Restaurant of the Week

EXO GREEK MEDITERRANEAN BISTRO

By Teresa Barile

A visit to Exo Greek Mediterranean Bistro is always a treat, whether you come for a casual lunch, a family dinner, a romantic date, or Sunday brunch. Brothers and community members, George and Jim Isaakidis, lovingly created a warm, inviting restaurant in the heart of the quiet hamlet of Whitestone in Northeast Queens. The service is just as sunny as the interior with warm, dappled walls, tile floors, soft lighting and a beautiful, glass-enclosed atrium that is heated in the winter and cooled in the summer. In addition, there is plenty of al fresco dining outside in good weather. Best of all, at Exo you can enjoy world class, upscale Greek and Mediterranean dishes and fine wine right in the neighborhood at prices that are within reach to all.

We were warmly greeted by Rich, the General Manager and Buck, who heads up the excellent service you’ll receive. We started with a wonderful bottle of red wine from Greece that paired well with all our courses. You’ll also find malbecs from Argentina and fine Californians. Rich has brought together a thoughtful selection of American craft beers to enjoy as well. Chef Isham prepares everything from scratch, using only the highest quality ingredients that include fish and seafood, meat, poultry, vegetables and fruit, with figs from their own trees when in season. Indeed you ought to start with their Autumn salad, a new item that reflects the season, composed of fragrant arugula and mesculin, dried fruits, nuts and a citrusy grapefruit vinaigrette dressing. Another new “meze” or appetizer is crispy haloumi cheese served with chunky tomato jam, whose sweetness counterpoints the saltiness of the cheese ($12). Exo’s grilled octopus is impossibly tender and flavorful, prepared with roasted garlic, capers and red wine vinegar. Sauteed tiger shrimp are gently cooked with white wine, capers and parsley over crushed potatoes. An array of house made dips are perfect to start with and share, especially when spread on the house made pita bread. Hummus is smooth and light, gently seasoned so that you can enjoy the flavor of the chick peas, while melitzanosalata is bright with the flavors of fresh eggplant, onion and herbs. Taramosalata, or caviar dip, is light and fresh here, as is the tzatziki sauce that is not overly seasoned with garlic. One-page menus are ideal for me. With all options covered, you know everything is fresh and cooked to order. The whole, grilled branzino is unforgettable, grilled on its back, deboned and flattened so you can just dive right in. Your server will tell you about the fresh fish of the day, such as diver scallops, which were pan seared to a sweet, caramelized finish, served with roasted cauliflower, crushed almonds and mint, making this a truly memorable dish. Spice crusted tuna has recently been added to the menu and should be ordered rare for optimum flavor. This melt-in-yourmouth tuna is accompanied by chickpea puree, warm bulgur salad and grilled fruit. The chef’s special handmade pasta was wide pappardelle topped with grilled octopus and braised cabbage for a unique taste and texture combination that you’ll not see anywhere else. Slow cooked pork shank is so tender and succulent, the meat renders easily from the bone and is served with yellow split peas, onions and turnips for a hearty fall dish. We tried some of the chef’s new entrees, including pan roasted duck breast which was perfectly cooked and dressed in a duck reduction. The 14-ounce hanger steak is excellent and Loukaniko sliders incorporate spiced Greek sausage instead of ground beef for a new twist on an old favorite.

Exo Greek and Mediterranean Bistro is proud to offer a five- or seven-course tasting menu so there’s no need to choose among all their tempting entrees. A wine pairing is available with the tasting menu and please allow for plenty of time to savor each and every course. Sunday brunch features a Greek-American breakfast of eggs, bacon or lamb sausage and feta cheese potatoes. Corn meal pancakes, double-dipped French toast and sizzling lamb hash are just some of the items you’ll find at brunch. 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.

Perhaps I should have mentioned this earlier on, but DO save room for the warm, chocolate soufflé for dessert. There’s also traditional Greek yogurt with honey and nuts and ice cream. Rich mixed up an after dinner drink that was perfect with dessert, though you can also order a robust espresso or cappuccino.

Exo Greek Mediterranean Bistro offers Manhattan-quality cuisine at affordable prices in the heart of Whitestone. The ambience is elegant yet comfortable and the service is excellent. Exo is open seven days a week for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Private parties and family dinners are welcome here. Come celebrate life with good food and wine at Exo Greek Mediterranean Bistro!

15-16 149th Street
Whitestone  718.767.4396

www.exorestaurant.com

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