2014-07-02 / Restaurant of the Week

OVELIA PSISTARIA AND BAR

Brothers Chris and Peter Giannakas opened Ovelia Psistaria about eight years ago and the impressive food and the ‘buzz’ around this modern Hellenic grill house is as fresh as the day it opened. With a laser-focus on quality ingredients, preparation, and excellent customer satisfaction, Chris and Peter work tirelessly to ensure a superior dining and social experience for everyone. Whether you stop in for a cocktail and an appetizer, lunch, dinner, or weekend brunch, you’ll want to come back. The food is consistently delicious and beautifully presented and the service is very attentive, thanks in large part to the professionalism of Vasilis, our charming server. Visit their Web site for more ‘buzz’ about Ovelia, including lots of celebrity press.

The sleek bar is a great meeting place, and can be accessed from the sidewalk in warm weather. The bartenders mix up fruity red and white sangria, mojitos, and signature cocktails that are refreshingly good, especially during Happy Hour, when they are offered at reduced prices. Vasilis suggested a crisp, dry white wine from Greece which went perfectly with spicy, creamy feta cheese called kafteri. Spread this on warm triangles of pita bread and let your meal begin. Fried feta cubes are wildly popular, encrusted in sesame seeds and drizzled with Greek honey, a nice combination of savory and sweet. You’ll find it difficult to choose between the smoky grilled calamari or the grilled octopus, each being so tender and flavorful from its time on the grill ($12). Fried calamari rings are light and crispy, while the homemade keftedakia are Greek style meatballs made with minced lamb and mild spices, served hot off the grill. We shared stewed fava beans called gigantes and a wonderful Dakos salad. This generously sized salad is meant to be shared by two or more from its wooden bowl. Diced tomato, red onion, chickpeas, spearmint and capers on crunchy barley rusks makes a hearty and visually appealing dish.

The name Ovelia refers to a traditional Easter lamb barbecue and this restaurant stays very close to its roots, while adding modern, inventive twists. From day one, the lamb and fig kebabs have been a hit and one of my favorites. The skewers are laced with chunks of this delicious lamb, figs, and cherry tomatoes served with bulgur tabbouleh ($20). Greek coffee skirt steak is rubbed in yes, Greek coffee to render the meat tender and impart a special flavor before it hits the grill ($24) then served with mushroom and haloumi cheese poutine. The meat special that night was an impressive 32-ounce Angus Tomahawk rib-eye steak, meant for two or three to share.

The fresh fish special of the evening was skate, seasoned with mild herbs before hitting the grill. Seared scallops with asparagus and prosciutto are finished with citrus, butter, Masticha reduction. Masticha is a liqueur made from a tree resin imported from the island of Chios. Whole red snapper, sea bass and salmon are other fresh, light choices.

There are plenty of vegetarian options on the menu, including a new vegan dish of chickpea croquettes served on a mound of grated cauliflower that looks like couscous. A new side dish called abelorizo is a rice dish with chopped grape leaves, fresh dill, and lemon zest for a bright dish that was just perfect for summer, topped with a dollop of yogurt. Red and gold beets and kale are great sides or could be your veg only meal.

Meat lovers come on Wednesdays for Rock ‘n’ Ribs for Ovelia’s house-smoked ribs whose meat just slides off the bone. Get a half-rack with two side dishes and corn bread for just $16.95 or a full-rack for $25.95. On Wednesdays you can also get their fantastic organic buttermilk fried chicken, pulled pork or chicken sandwich, po’ boy sandwiches and more. The house d.j. spins great music at night.

Lunch is served 11am to 5pm Monday to Friday, so try a tiropita toasted cheese sandwich, grilled sausage sandwich or Kobe beef sliders.

Enjoy an al fresco brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30am to 5:00pm with Greek style three cheese omelets, stuffed French toast filled with Greek yogurt, honey and fruit, polenta pancakes with ricotta and walnuts and a variety of sandwiches.

Try the Masticha liqueur or a cool glass of Moscato or coffee and one of Ovelia’s homemade desserts. The orange cake is made with semolina and the traditional galaktoboureko gets a modern twist with pumpkin custard between layers of flaky phyllo. House made ‘loukoumades’ are balls of fried dough doused in honey; ambrosia for the gods. Visit any time of day or night for a hot or cold coffee drink and a crepe filled with fruit, chocolate, or yogurt, honey and walnuts. With summer in full swing, declare your independence from cooking and enjoy a memorable meal and superior dining experience at Ovelia Psistaria and Bar. Opa!

34-01 30th Avenue  Astoria
718.721.7217
www.ovelia-nyc.com

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