Monday, July 21, 2008

Kafene - Where's the Party?

Kafene - 23-08 Hoyt Avenue South, Astoria, NY 11102
N/W Train to Astoria Blvd

Last week I mentioned Kafene's opening celebration, offering free wine and hors d'oeurves so I naturally went to check it out. While I was impressed with the looks of this place and its amazing food, the service was confusing and the concept of this event wasn't completely fleshed out. I will explain...

I can hardly recognize this place from the first time that I saw it reconstructed. Instead of the original burger joint feel, it's now a cafe/lounge. There's a plethora of tables outside as well as a modern, air-conditioned room inside, where the "party" was being held. The decor in this room is simple and chic, consisting mostly of tables and even a comfy chaise and cushiony chairs in the center. A visit to the loo is worth it--wash your hands in the Zen rock sinc, it's a wonderfully calming experience.

We opted for a couple of small plates but to be perfectly honest, we were expecting this to be a "party" (as the invite implied). Needless to say, we were surprised to see that there were no free hors d'oeurves in sight. Regardless, we loved what we ordered.

Falafel - This was our first dish that was served with perfectly grilled pita and fresh cucumbers. I don't normally adore falafel but this one was excellent--perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The spices were incorporated just right and I would highly recommend trying this as a starter. Dan who's choice it was to order it was very happy--and he's sort of a falafel connoisseur. Nice job Kafene!

Sauteed Calamari - Another knock-out, the calamari was served piping hot and clearly fresh. It was a nice change from the usual fried option and this one contained fragrant flavors such as garlic, lemon and parsley. I think that it was cooked in a white wine sauce that provided a nice broth to dip the extra pita into. The calamari came in round and tentacle shapes--a lot of people get grossed out by the latter but I loved them!

Melitzanosalata (Eggplant Dip) - My friend Crystal and I shared this dish and we were both impressed. It's not easy to get it right, as eggplant could be overpowering but this dip was excellent. It was gentle, very spreadable and light on the palate--yet another dish that I wouldn't mind repeating.

Hummus with Pita - Dan ordered this towards the end of the night and it capped off the evening nicely. Again, it was a smooth and seasoned perfectly--spreading it on the grilled pita triangles was a pleasure. What can I say, the chef at Kafene has his small plates down to a science.

Service and Cost:
The service is an area where I saw need for improvement. The waitresses seemed confused about the menu and about our food choices in general. They kept switching around and there was only one of them that seemed to know what she was doing. The "party" special was another hazy topic with Kafene's staff. They acted unsure when we asked for the free wine and when we referenced the free hors d'oeurves, they simply said they were unavailable. Did I not read about this in my e-invite? I went back to the email the next morning to double check and sure enough it was there "complimentary wine and hors d'oeurves until 11p."

Despite the "party" mix-up, the food and wine were fairly priced. Wine was about $9-$10 per glass and the appetizers ranged between $5-$12. I'm going to try to get a hold of the full menu and post it online soon.

2 Mmmms


  1. I went too and had a similar experience. A few weeks ago they didn't have much of a staff and now it seems there are too many "cooks in the kitchen".

    I went on Saturday and it seemed like just a regular night there. When I asked about the free wine the waitress said "Oh, you received an invitation?" We did have some free wine with our order but that was about it. Very strange but I do agree that the food was wonderful.

  2. Definitely too many cooks--confusing!

  3. Anonymous24 July, 2008

    this place is awful...

    Mediocre Greek Food...People have no idea what they are doing there too..

    Tzatziki is canned btw... Gross. The food is half decent, not at all worth the money though if you know anything about Greek foods.

    I like the dining room though...but this restaurant will likely not be around that long with that management, and quite mediocre menu.

  4. Anonymous28 July, 2008

    I think you mean "flushed out"

  5. Nope--I meant fleshed out. Flushed out is often misused but it isn't gramatically correct.

  6. I walked by kafene today and its closed again for a transformation once again.Sometimes i feel like the place is on drugs.Having a businees management degree and working in business I could see where things are just crazy.It would be a great place if it was clean and professional.My past experince was always intresting from the agressive owner who's always trying to get people drunk
    and ever changing menu and staff its like a bad reality TV show.Ive seen some bad places but this place is bad with sometimes good food and sometimes old and rotten food and dirty plates and glasses.

  7. I agree - it's definitely inconsistent and the owner is a sketchball. The last time I went there I was less than pleased. They just kept getting deeper and deeper into it (and by "it" I mean the stinky stuff)--I wanted to bolt from my seat but my brother was eating his meal so I waited for him to finish. The place is horrible and I can't wait until it's replaced by something better.



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