Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Thymari - The Verdict is Still Out
With our friend Moses in town last week, we were all excited to get together and give him a piece of what he's been missing in Astoria while living in Portland. Being that he's Greek and naturally an expert on Greek cuisine, I thought it'd be fun to try Thymari, given that he loved its predecessor, Philoxenia.
Overall, the experience was fun and memorable because it was a nice get-together between great friends, but some of the food left something to be desired. Not all of it, but still some of it proved to be a work in progress for most of us.
Not changing things around too much from its predecessor, we saw this as a good thing, as the large, spacious dining room remained, along with all its modern furnishings. The exposed brick walls and wooden beams are wonderfully rustic and convey a cozy vibe that somehow reminds me of the islands, especially with the open windows giving off a nice breeze from the outside. The lighting is soft and atmospheric, and I could see how it can create an intimate vibe for couples.
Besides the interior dining room, there's also a small sidewalk space outside you can enjoy, but I think the inside is a lot more charming and special. It feels more Greeky!
Since we were really in the mood to enjoy a true Greek-style dinner, we ordered a few mezedes and shared everything. I love doing this because I love Greek food and also enjoy tasting a whole lot of things including dips, meats, seafood, veggies and other specialties. My dining companions were totally on-board.
Pikilia - A sampling of different dips such as tzatziki, melitzanosalata, tyrokafteri and skordalia, it was a nice way to start the meal but it wasn't some of the best stuff I've had in Astoria. I thought the tzatziki and the melitzanosalata were delicious, garlicky and fresh, but the skordalia and the tyrokafteri were just so so and a bit bland. They didn't really differentiate themselves from the bunch, which is not usually the case.
Horiatiki Salad - Even though this was really simple, it still stands out for me as one of the best dishes of the night. All the veggies including super ripe, blood red tomatoes, huge chunks of feta and buttery olives made this a much needed, refreshing preamble to the main meal.
Sotzoukakia - These are the meatballs you see above and they were one of the stand-outs (this confirmed by our Greek expert Moses). Incredibly moist and flavorful, they were spiced with cumin and fresh mint, and covered in a spectacularly rich, homemade tomato sauce, further topped with a creamy Greek yogurt sauce. Totally satisfying and worth getting again!
Octapodi Psito - This was the grilled octopus dish, which we were really looking forward to but that only half delivered. It looked gorgeous, but once we bit into it, it was on the chewy side and the flavors were too muddled, as Moses said. They failed to keep the dish simple and clean, as it should be.
Kalamari - We chose to get the fried calamari, which was a no brainer. Even though it tasted nice, I think it was a bit too greasy and thick. Personally, I prefer when the pieces are thinner and daintier and also when I get a lot of those wiry tentacle pieces, which I unfortunately didn't see here.
Dolmades - Stuffed grape leaves, with bulgur wheat, pine nuts, mint and diced apricots, it sounded better than it tasted. When I bit into one, the flavors I just described were muddled, and all I tasted was the thick bulgur and not much else. I was really excited for the apricots particularly, but didn't really get a feel for them at all in this dish.
Kolokythokeftedes - Ordering these by mistake, it was the best mistake we made. Piping hot zucchini and feta fritters, they were tender and the cheese melted beautifully on the inside. A perfect combination of rich and earthy, they were even better when paired with the cool tzatziki. Each bite made me think of being on an exotic Greek isle.
Dessert - A bonus treat we received from the chef, it was another surprising stand-out. A cold dessert, consisting of a yogurt mousse cup, topped with an amaretto walnut mixture, it was wonderfully refreshing and clean tasting. Not only did it do a great job of cleansing our palate after this diverse meal, it didn't leave us feeling weighed down and was a total hit that I'd get again in a heartbeat.
Service and Cost:
The service was really nice here, as our waiter knew a lot about the menu and was just generally really attentive, making sure all was OK during our entire experience. I liked that they let us linger around and chat as long as we liked, and we felt totally welcome and relaxed, which is something I'd return for.
Costs are moderate, and for the meal I just described to you (with drinks), we paid about $46/person (including tax and tip).
Thymari - 32-07 34th Avenue, Astoria NY 11106
N/Q Train to Broadway