Wednesday, July 1, 2009
S'Agapo - Love at First Bite
S'Agapo - 34-21 34th Avenue, Astoria NY 11106
N/W Train to Broadway
Kimberly was in town last weekend and because she missed Greek food so much, we decided to check out S'Agapo. A traditional Greek joint, it's been in the neighborhood for 40 years, known for traditional, homestyle Greek cuisine. The reviews that we read were good, but the actual experience was stupendous and we'd go back in a heartbeat.
There's nothing fancy about S'Agapo and that's OK--it doesn't try hard to impress but succeeds to make you feel comfortable with its cozy, personal vibe. The inside dining room is simple with wooden chairs and tables and a glass display, showcasing the catch of the day.
What I found really nice on a warm night like last weekend was their outdoor patio. Again, nothing too elaborate, it consists of plastic chairs and simple tables, which curve around the restaurant. I liked the fairy lights on top of the striped awning that added a festive touch, as well as the tall bushes that gave the patio some privacy.
S'Agapo appeals to native Greeks and you'll hear the beautiful language spoken around you. However, if you're American, you won't feel like an outsider and will be treated with importance and respect.
Not sure about what to expect, we were astounded at how much we liked everything. From the beautiful, rustic presentation to the flavorful taste, we fell in love with S'Agapo's food.
Traditional Greek Salad - We wanted to start out with something light and fresh, thus ordering this salad, consisting of tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, endives and feta cheese. It was very simple, flavored with a lemon/olive oil vinaigrette--and the veggies were incredibly fresh. The tomatoes were juicy and the feta was milky white, with a nice tang. We loved piling this on top of our toasted pita or stuffing the endive leaves with the other contents of the salad.
Dip Assortment - While most Greek restaurants in the neighborhood offer an assortment of 3 to even 5 dips, S'Agapo stepped it up with 8 amazing dips on one plate. The selection was almost overwhelming but so much fun to try, as I think the dips catered to all tastes. The roe and grape leave spreads offered a salty bite whereas the roasted red pepper and the beet spreads were on the sweeter side. There was also a non-traditional parsley dip that reminded us of pesto, except that it was more earthy and lemony. One of my favorites was the tzatziki, refreshingly cool and slightly garlicky. An innovative aspect about this dish were the veggie separators, which included cucumber slices and a hybrid vegetable, which was a cross between an avocado and a cucumber. Yowza!
Zucchini Croquettes - Instead of taking the long shape of the zucchini, these were round and almost pancake-like. I liked them a lot but didn't understand why they were paired with a dollop of hummus. I preferred them with the cooling tzatziki instead and dipped them into this part of our dip sampler.
Cheese Dumplings with Honey - This was a show-stopper for me, more so than for Kimberly. It consisted of crispy pastry dough dumplings filled with sweet dessert cheese. A side of honey was the perfect pairing, as it gave the dumplings a floral essence and a touch of indulgence. I loved how light the cheese was and the crispiness of the crust was lovely.
Greek Meatballs - We both stopped and exclaimed after our first bite because we couldn't believe how light these were. Despite an airy quality, they had intense flavor, enhanced by fresh herbs like parsley and mint. Acompanied by a generous glug of tzatziki, I couldn't get enough, making this dish a must.
Service and Cost:
Our waiter was polite and took the time to explain and recommend the food and wine to us. The server, who we thought was also the owner was especially cordial, explaining the contents of everything, even all of the dips. There was a strange occurrence with our pita (we thought that it was partially nibbled) but the situation was handled with humor that kept us in stitches for the rest of the night.
S'Agapo is incredibly affordable, especially for the great quality that you get. Our meal, which consisted of 5 dishes that we shared as well as a carafe of house wine set us back $43 per person. It was a lot of food that made us comfortably full and that could've easily fed 1-2 more people.
3 Loud Mmmms