Thursday, May 8, 2008

Zenon Taverna - A Scrumptious Taste of Cyprus

Zenon Taverna - 34-10 31st Avenue, Astoria, NY 11106
N/W Train to Broadway

My colleague Meg from Joey in Astoria inspired me to come here. After reading her post about Zenon and the amazing value you get, I had to experience it for myself. Margot, Jen and I had a lovely and very peaceful dinner there on Tuesday night. Our wallets did not suffer and our bellies were quite happy in the end. I highly recommend visiting this Astorian well kept (until now) secret.

There's no other way to say it, Zenon Taverna feels like a home. Although the space isn't small it's on the narrow side, making it feel intimate. The decor falls very much in line with a Greek Taverna--lots of blues and whites and plenty of colorful murals depicting Greece and the Mediterranean. The back of the restaurant has a gorgeous, rustic credenza, with authentic clay trinkets from the home country.

Although we visited Zenon on a Tuesday, when it was quiet, I have a feeling that this place doesn't get too crowded. I personally love this kind of atmosphere and would be willing to try Zenon for a group birthday party. Something about the decor, which made me smile were their serving plates--all are vintage and different from one another. They really look like something that came out of my mom's or grandma's kitchen.

I've heard good things about the food and had high expectations, which were fully met. My dining companions agreed and we especially appreciated the freshness of Zenon's ingredients. Our dinner consisted of:

Bread (on the house) and Salad: I normally wouldn't write about a bread basket because it's so standard but this one went above and beyond the call of duty. The basket was generous and consisted of three bread varieties--Italian, olive focaccia and good ol' warm pita. The pita and olive focaccia were to die for and we kept dipping them into Zenon's fruity olive oil.

The salad was great too and came with Margot's and my dishes. It was a plain chopped Greek salad but the veggies were so juicy and fresh that I must make note of it here. The tomatoes and the olives were my favorite and while I'm not a huge fan of an ordinary salad, this one was exceptional.

Souvlaki kai Sheftalia (Pork Kebab and Meatball Combo) - I ordered the platter portion and Jen got the appetizer. Both were so generous that we couldn't finish them and had our respective man friends (Dan and Ted) polish them off at home. They tasted amazing and incorporated many fragrant Mediterranean spices such as oregano and cumin. Our platters came with chopped onions and fresh parsley, which were both excellent but one thing was missing--the tzatziki sauce!

We loved the sides that came with our meat--especially me. Jen chose the black eyed peas in olive oil and lemon and I got the Cypriot fries. The black eyed peas were creamy, light and a bit fruity from the olive oil. My Cypriot fries were by far my favorite food at Zenon. They looked like potato chips, except that they were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. I've never seen these served anywhere else and highly recommend trying them. If you like fries, you will love Cypriot fries, which come seasoned with dried parsley, salt and pepper.

Octapodi (Octopus): Margot was brave and went for the grilled octopus. I tried it and it was fresh, not overcooked and much better than at Akti, which is not meant to be an insult. Margot seemed happy with it too and finished her generous portion, which came with a side of lemon potatoes. She wasn't wild about them and said they were pretty standard and lacked pizazz.

Fresh Fruit (on the house) - This was such a lovely surprise at the end of our meal--freshly cut apples and oranges were put on the table. We welcomed them, as they were succulent palate cleansers. Nice touch Zenon--thank you!

House Wine: The three of us enjoyed Zenon's house wine--Margot and Jen opted for the red and I got white. They were $5 a glass--what value! Margot and Jen got a small carafe, which was actually the same price as 2 regular glasses but it gave them an extra 1/2 a glass each. The carafe is worth getting not only for value but also for its charm--it was a beautiful hand painted clay mini-jug (see above picture). Too cool for words!

Service and Cost:
The waistaff did a good job and was unobtrusive. Our waiter was young and I suspect he was a son or a cousin of Zenon's owner. Just my speculation but it seems like this place is very much a family run business. Polite and attentive, our waiter made sure to wrap our dishes and we didn't feel rushed to leave.

The prices here are very reasonable and you've already heard about their generous portions. Appetizers run between $3.95-$13.95, entrees between $11.95 - $35.95 (a rack of lamb for 2) and dessert between $3.75-$3.95. Another thing which has to be touted is their unbelievable mezedes tasting--16, yes 16 hot and cold mezedes for $17.95 per person. Have you EVER heard of anything more indulgent and affordable?!

3 very effusive Mmmms


  1. The mezedes tasting is unbelievable - so good and so cheap! Every college student should know about this, it is such a deal. ;)

    I was with one other person and we hardly made a dent in it. Best thing is that you can take everything that you don't eat, home! I think you can make 2 or 3 meals out of it, easy.

    Glad you enjoyed it! I find Zenon to be very reliable in the deliciousness area. I've pointed a number of people there and they've been really happy with their meals. Often, their upstairs area has happy convivial sounds of music and dancing coming out of it.

  2. Have to disagree on the doneness of the Octopus, slightly on the tough/chewy side and covered in a bit too much oil for my liking, but overall not too much to complain about (well besides the "lemon" potatoes - no lemon to be had, and they tasted dirty). Interior is cute, but not as warm feeling as a place like Agnanti, Philoxenia, or Grandma's kicthen.



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