Thursday, May 29, 2008

Akti - Still Going Strong

Akti - 34-19 30th Avenue, Astoria, NY 11103
N/W Train to 30th Avenue

I'm a big fan of this relatively new Greek/seafood restaurant on 30th Avenue. I've now been there twice--the second time for a celebratory dinner with Dan's mom--and I continue to be impressed by it.

Here are a couple of new things that I tried my second time around:

Spread Assortment: We started out with an assortment of spreads, including taramosalata (fish roe spread), tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber spread) and tyrokafteri (roasted pepper and feta cheese spread). These were really popular with the whole table and we insisted on leaving them in front of us for most of the meal. We dipped not only our pita bread into them but also spooned them on the side of our entrees. The tyrokafteri continues to be my favorite because of the fabulous zing it leaves on your tongue. The tzatziki was also great--very cooling and fragrant from the cucumbers.

Octopus Stew: This dish really impressed me because it was very different from what I'm used to. When it came out, it looked like something that would be served at Mombar--sort of like a tajine full of slow cooked ingredients. The dish contained tender octopus with sweet shallots in a white wine reduction. The spices were extraordinary and with the broth, they created a deliciously sweet stew--I'm suspecting that anise was used because of the licoricey flavor. I'm going to be honest and say that while I loved this dish, it's not for everyone. If you enjoy pungent ethnic flavors, you'll love it and if you veer on the side of caution, I'd stay away.

Marinated Greek Olives: Kimberly had good things to say about these, so naturally we tried them. She was right--the olives were marinated in the most wonderful mixture of olive oil, parsley, oregano and garlic. I preferred the green ones but both types were very good.

Fried Calamari:
Dan requested this specifically and it was solid. After having Akti's seafood now on different occasions, I could say with confidence that it's top notch. The calamari was large and shaped beautifully in round ringlets ,which were interspersed with wild tentacles. It came seasoned with parsley and lemon wedges, which added more freshness and great flavor. Please note that these do not come with marinara sauce--Akti is after all a Greek restaurant--but you can ask for some and the gracious waitstaff will be happy to provide it.

Greek Cypriot Village Sausage: Dan and I are big meat eaters so we naturally rooted for this--and it delivered. It looks very rustic on the plate--two large rounded links, bursting at the seams where the slits were made. It was a nice peasant dish, simple at its core but packed with so many fragrant spices and meat that I could've eaten another portion. The skin was especially good and crispy from the grill. It reminded me of my beloved kielbasa that I get at the Beer Garden.

Grilled Pork Chops:
Dan's dad, David ordered this and he seemed pleased. I tasted it too but it wasn't my favorite dish--the meat was a bit tough and not juicy enough. But there were no complaints from David and he polished it off and even took some home with him because the portion was so large.

Grilled Red Snapper: As I mentioned, Akti really shines with their seafood. The snapper was delightful--light and flaky with nice hints of char from the grill and a citrusy tang from the capers. Make no mistake, this dish is rustic, (with the head still on) and if you'd like it deboned you have to ask for it. I enjoyed it very much and so did everyone else, commenting on its freshness and great flavor. By the time we were done with it, the head was all that was left.

Dessert: It was hard to say yes to dessert after the meal we just had but when they brought out a complimentary round, how could we refuse? Our sweet finish consisted of two types of honey cakes--coconut and walnut. I preferred the walnut because it was super moist and spiced with cinnamon. It was so airy and delicious that I'm certain I ate more than one piece. Dan and his parents seem to enjoy the coconut-honey cake more so that worked out nicely.

Service and Cost:
The service was outstanding, just like last time. Our waiter was on the ball, making suggestions, telling jokes, smiling and keeping the service flowing. He did a good job recommending wine to Dan's mom Vicki and he was attentive with all aspects of the meal.

The cost was again reasonable--the huge dinner, which I just described cost us about $40/per person (including alcohol). I have to be frank and say that we got a couple of things on the house but still, the prices won't break the bank--especially if you share a bunch of dishes with your dining companions.

3 Enthusiastic Mmmms

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