Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Aegean Cove - For Serious Greek Food Connoisseurs Only
Aegean Cove - 20-01 Steinway Street, Astoria NY 11105
N/Q Train to Ditmars Blvd (last stop)
Dan and I have been hearing nothing but great things about Aegean Cove for quite a while, but we never actually had the opportunity to trek over there and try it. Our good friend Moses, who truly knows Greek food (he grew up in Greece after all) could not stop talking it up - until we actually mustered up willingness to go. Wow - I am so, so glad that we did!
From first glance, you can clearly see that Aegean Cove is a fine dining establishment. Its facade looks like a classic bistro and as soon as you walk in, you're welcomed by rich wooden furnishings, warm lighting, inviting tables for all sized parties and an extensive mahogany bar.
There are two dining rooms and an outdoor space, which make Aegean a diverse place to dine. We ate in the cozy front-of-the-house room, which closely resembled a quaint brasserie with oversized mirrors, classic white lace curtains, sconce lighting and other charming touches. Moses informed us that in the summer, they open up their amazing rooftop garden that's just wonderful for dining al fresco.
Consisting of classic Greek fare, which focuses on hot and cold meze, we ordered everything to share including the main dishes. We tried to keep our choices somewhat light, as this was still just lunch.
Meze - We chose a good variety of meze including grilled halloumi cheese, seafood croquettes, fried calamari and grilled octopus. Out of those, the octopus and the croquettes hands-down won me over. The octopus looked gorgeous, dressed with capers, red peppers and onions. Covered in a tangy red wine vinaigrette, it tasted fresh and zingy - a perfect pairing with the soft-as-butter octopus chunks.
The seafood croquettes were also excellent and more resembled Asian-style tempura battered fritters than Greek croquettes. The flavors in this dish were amazing, consisting of a fresh cod and shrimp combo, battered in a light, fluffy coating. A much coveted side of skordalia (cold mashed potatoes with garlic) provided a delicious dip, raising the flavor profile of the croquettes to the next level.
Entrees - Since Moses was set on trying the mousaka, we got an order of that and the soutzoukakia (Greek meatballs). Both were excellent options and ones I'd get again in a heartbeat. The mousaka was rich and comforting, layered with potatoes, eggplant and hearty ground beef, topped with a decadent bechamel sauce - sort of like a Greek lasagna if you will. I've had this dish on other occasions at Ovelia and Zenon Taverna, and I can confidently say that Aegean's version was certainly up there in terms of flavor and quality.
I couldn't wait to try the soutzoukakia, especially since I most recently had Moses' mom's homemade version. Even though the two were different, Aegean's packed a mean punch, with fragrant spices such as mint and oregano. The meat itself was tender and juicy, transferring some of its sauce to the bed of creamy risotto.
Service and Cost:
Since we were the only patrons in this restaurant on Sunday during lunchtime, service couldn't be better. We had our server's undivided attention and Moses even buttered him up a bit by speaking Greek. All dishes were brought out in good time and I liked the thoughtful respite before the entrees were brought out.
Costs are moderate but fair for the excellent quality:
Meze - $4 - $16
Salads - $7 - $9
Seafood - $16 - M/P
Meat & Poultry - $12 - $22
Greek Specialties - $10 - $18