2015-08-05 / Restaurant of the Week

Reef Restaurant and Bar

If you can’t escape to the Mediterranean this summer, then you must get over to Reef Restaurant in Forest Hills for the cuisine, ingredients, and flavors that taste like they came straight from those sunny shores. The dining room is cool, chic, and cozy with exposed brick and thick wooden tables that allow for comfortable, intimate dining either upstairs or downstairs in the subterranean, romantic space. Whimsical fish sculptures and lanterns adorn the windows and the dining room glows with candles.

When we arrived at 7pm on a recent weeknight, a vibrant Happy Hour (5:00-7:30) was in play with plenty of drink specials at the nicely designed, inviting bar. Sasha the bartender mixes up some fantastic cocktails such as the signature Reef made with Hendrick’s gin, pomegranate liqueur, lemon and lime for a beautifully presented drink. The mojitos are freshly mixed and garnished with fresh mint leaves and wedges of lime while the Sunset Margarita is shaken and served over ice in a beautiful, saltrimmed glass. Well-chosen wines from all over the world start at just $6 a glass and the beer selection has your favorite, icy brews.

Reef has been open about a year and a half with the simple concept of offering fresh, healthy Mediterranean cuisine with a ‘no butter’ philosophy. Indeed extra virgin olive oil has replaced all butter and unhealthy fats in the kitchen. Fine ingredients including very fresh fish, vegetables, meat and pasta are simply prepared, light and flavorful, and served piping hot. You’ll feel very satisfied, but not overly stuffed and you might even want one of their delicious desserts. Best of all the prices are reasonable and the service is so very friendly and inefficient, thanks to Lana and Brooklyn.

A basket of warm, crusty rolls was swiftly delivered to our table along with a ramekin of house made hummus (not butter) that was delicious. We started with a very tasty grilled octopus that was perfectly grilled, super tender, and served with olive oil, a touch of vinegar and fresh lemon. Baked clams get a light crunch from bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and garlic, available with 6 or 12 to an order ($9/$18). The raw bar offers a melton your-tongue striped bass carpaccio, cured in lemon juice, black pepper, capers, and olive oil ($13). There’s also tuna tartare, tuna carpaccio and fresh oysters on the half shell which sell by the dozens during the happy Happy Hour.

The Mediterranean influence really shines through with appetizers and shared plates of homemade eggplant dip, spicy feta cheese dip, and tzatziki yogurt and cucumber dip, all served with triangles of warm pita bread. Share a cheese plate at the bar or at your table with some fine wine or try the savory baked feta cheese, wrapped in flaky phyllo dough and drizzled with honey, which still makes my mouth water ($9). Freshly tossed green salads and the Reef seafood salad are also perfect for sharing, or try a bowl of light, fresh fish chowder with celery, carrots, and potatoes.

You’ll appreciate Reef’s one-page menu which has everything you could want, all prepared on the spot and beautifully presented. Risotto with asparagus is a light, summer dish, or have it with plump tiger shrimp, scallops, and tomato. My lobster linguine had a split-open lobster tail which came out of its shell so easily. It was nestled on a bed of perfectly cooked linguine tossed with garlic, olive oil, and white wine. Orzo pasta with shrimp and scallops puts you right on a Greek island, while pasta with homemade meatballs sends you to the sunny Italian coast.

Reef specializes in fresh fish and seafood, as the name suggests and you will be delighted with the generous servings of tuna steak, grilled and served with caramelized onion, striped bass steak, or grilled whole Dorade or red snapper. My beau’s swordfish steak was perfectly cooked and served with a choice of side dishes that include roasted lemon potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice, broccoli rabe, grilled vegetables, or hand cut French fries.

If you’re a landlubber, Reef has juicy lamb chops, grilled chicken, ribeye steak and juicy flank steak with or without spicy peppercorn sauce ($24). These entrees come with a choice of side dishes too. Vegetarians have plenty of choices at Reef, such as spinach lasagna, grilled vegetable plate with falafel and rice, appetizers and pasta entrées. Share a dessert if you can because the tartufo is cool and creamy, with a rich chocolate coating, meant for two spoons. Next time I’ll try the sweet semolina custard, crème brulee, or warm brownie with caramel sauce and vanilla gelato.

Reef is open seven days a week from noon until midnight on weeknights and until 1am on the weekends for late night dining. Happy Hour runs from 5-7:30pm during the week. There’s a lovely weekend brunch too on Saturday and Sunday. Check out their website for photos and menus.

I can’t say enough good things about Reef Restaurant & Bar. Owner Sokol has created the perfect restaurant with fresh, healthy food, inviting, relaxing ambience, reasonable prices and a great staff. You’ll feel very welcome at Reef and I am already looking forward to another visit.

108-02 72nd Avenue
Forest Hills • 718.487.4564


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