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Food for the Greek gods August 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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New York’s Greek scene gets a fancy-pants makeover > Every so often in NYC, a down-home cuisine gets an uptown makeover

Now, modern Greek chefs are aiming to elevating the traditional to an art form. Restaurants like Anthos, 36 W. 52nd St., where star chef Michael Psilakis is freshening Aegean fare with inventive dishes like swordfish with Cypriot sausage and baby octopus, are experimenting with classic flavors and twisting the expected in delicious new ways.

New this summer to Psilakis’ menu are the sublime swordfish sliders he’s making for lunch. Made of ground swordfish belly mixed with fennel, mustard seeds and coriander, the bite-size patties sit on a brioche bun with zucchini tzatziki sauce and green tomato compote.

“The explosion of modern Greek food stems from an emphasis on the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet,” says Psilakis. “There have been studies that Greek is the healthiest.”

While figs are still in season, order the refreshing fig martini at Ovelia, 34-01 30th Ave., Astoria, a lively corner spot. The signature dish: garides Ovelia, six jumbo shrimp wrapped in roasted eggplant, topped with feta cheese that’s been lightly blackened from broiling.

Cavernous Thalassa, 179 Franklin St., prepares striking food equal to its dramatic old-warehouse setting. Maine diver scallops are wrapped in shredded phyllo dough, and dressed with sheep’s milk butter. For dessert: homemade fig ice cream.

“It is not surprising that diners are seeking a ‘haute Hellenic’ experience,” says Sofia Zilo, Thalassa’s general manager.

Even in Astoria, a former landmark taverna has been reborn as Christos Steak House, 41-08 23rd Ave., and there, the classic steak au poivre comes with a sauce spiked with Metaxa, the worldwide famous Greek brandy.

At cozy Kellari, 19 W. 44th St., chef Gregory Zapanti dresses up a traditional fish like red snapper with a pistachio and feta crust. On top: a balsamic lime vinaigrette.

Periyali, 35 W. 20th St., was a pioneer in upscale Greek cuisine when it opened 20 years ago. Today chef James Henderson is turning wintry lamb into a light summer meal: lamb tenderloin gets dressed with arugula and Kalamata olive vinaigrette.

Diane Kochilas, the consulting chef at Pylos, 128 E. Seventh St., is among the trend’s leaders. She turns traditional hoirini brizola Pylos into something unique by marinating double-cut pork chops in a sweet sauce, then stuffing them with feta and olives.

At Agnanti Meze, 78-02 Fifth Ave., Bay Ridge, there’s one appetizer you won’t find anywhere else: Spartan kayianas are scrambled eggs with chopped tomatoes, pieces of orange peel, and smoked ham cured in orange juice.

Sounds crazy, but turns out delicious. With Greek food, the opportunity for innovation is built in. “Greek food is simple,” says Ioannis Giannakis, chef and owner of Ovelia. “Which allows chefs to introduce new flavors and techniques, ultimately modernizing the cuisine.”

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