2015-05-20 / Restaurant of the Week

Riou Seafood Restaurant & Bar

Riou Bar/Lounge and Seafood Restaurant is an unexpected treasure on the block of Steinway between 28th and 30th Avenues in Astoria. When we arrived for dinner, we were greeted by a friendly server named Jair who immediately saw to our every comfort. We settled into the roomy, cushiony chairs of creamy faux leather, enjoying the luxurious d├ęcor of white lacquer tables, silvery walls above a wainscoting of exposed brick, and mini crystal chandeliers dangling from the ceiling. Grey stonework behind the bar makes for an elegant backdrop along one wall, while the front of the bar is padded with the same ivory fabric as the chairs in a “tuck and roll” texture reminiscent of Mad Men. Pop music plays from the stereo and the whole place has a cool, club feel.

My dining companion, always in search of two things: the quintessential margarita and the ultimate fried calamari, ordered both to start, and I opted for a Pinot Grigio and the Seared Maryland Crab Cake. The margarita turned out to be not only delicious, but one hundred percent authentic in our opinion. The calamari can be ordered in a variety of styles, but we opted for the traditional, with a spicy tomato sauce on the side. Lightly dipped in a cornmeal batter it was super tasty and crispy, the sauce made from fresh tomatoes. We pronounced it divine, among the best fried calamari in town. My house Pinot Grigio was crisp and dry, just how I like it, and the crab cake fluffy and tender, made of fresh crab topped with an herb salad garnish. Some crab cakes taste too much of bell peppers, this one did not; served with a Cajun remoulade, it was heaven on a plate.

At this point, one of the owners, David Duran came to say hello, and let us in on the secret to the restaurant’s eclectic influences. Though he and his fellow owners, are of Latino descent, as is Chef Orlando Chaverria, the flavors on the menu are drawn from Europe, the Mediterranean, South America, and even Asia. Just opened April 24th, Riou is already popular, Duran said, as a late night destination on the weekends for those looking for a unique experience in dining at a good price, a hip vibe, and a range of specialty cocktails, in particular the tropical drinks Riou is becoming famous for. And not only does the restaurant feature a DJ spinning tracks from around 6:00 pm on Friday and Saturday nights, the kitchen stays open until at least midnight on the weekends (depending on demand) to cater to that late night crowd.

Our dining experience continued in the capable hands of our waitress, Cassandra. Chef Orlando recommended some samplings from the cold and hot appetizer and salad sections of the extremely extensive menu. We tried a Tartare of Yellow Fin Tuna that was as fresh and delectable as can be, infused with red ginger, chilies, and encircled by a wonderful wasabi cream. Next up was a bowl of mussels in a spicy Thai coconut sauce, a great pairing with the tender mollusks. We were also treated to a taste of the Roasted Beet Salad, fresh and cool with small chunks of slightly firm beets and strawberries, sprinkled with goat cheese and pepitas (pistachios) in a very light jalapeno honey dressing. We continued to be astonished by the delicious combination of flavors, establishing Chef Orlando, in our minds, as a true culinary genius while he offered up more delights: Pan Roasted Sea Bass, served over ultra-buttery mashed potatoes and spinach with a lobster cream glaze and a BBQ chutney, all of which conspired to create an exquisite, melt in your mouth flavor experience; a Pan Seared Mahi Mahi over a lobster/potato hash with spinach in a red wine ginger emulsion that was equally heady and delicious; and the Skirt Steak in a red wine jus that, not to overuse the phrase, also melted in the mouth and was cooked to perfection…unbelievably flavorful.

Riou opens every day at noon for lunch and offers all variety of burgers and sandwiches, such as the Salmon or Crab Cake Burger, the Ultimate Angus Burger, a tuna club, steak and cheese sandwich, or a shrimp wrap, plus all kinds of salads served with or without chicken, steak, shrimp or salmon everything available for dinner too. How does this sound: a Sesame Seared Tuna salad featuring organic greens, wasabi aioli, mango salsa, wonton and red ginger dressing? You can also find a New England Lobster Roll on the menu, in tarragon-lemon aioli on a potato roll, Grilled Atlantic Swordfish with coconut black rice, asparagus, soy lemon vinaigrette and mango pico de gallo, a Grilled Angus Sirloin in a red wine demi glaze with parmesan herb frites and grilled asparagus, and a dozen Littleneck Clams or Blue Point Oysters on the half shell.

Riou is the fresh feel Steinway Street has been waiting for. Open seven days, weeknights till 10:00, you will be surprised and delighted by this revelation in dining. Come for the fun, welcoming atmosphere, stay for the first-rate gourmet fare!

Riou Seafood Restaurant & Bar

28-43 Steinway Street
Astoria • 929.522.0145

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