Agnanti Meze – Greece in Astoria

If you don’t use Twitter, you are really missing out. How else are you supposed to know what Kirstie Alley ate for breakfast? And, more importantly, how else are you supposed to know where to eat for dinner?
 A Twitter friend and foodie told me that Agnanti Meze was THE place to go for Greek food in Astoria. And since Astoria is THE place in New York for Greek food, I figured this would be the creme de la creme. 
 The casual restaurant has a lovely patio section, but be warned – by 7 pm on Saturday night, this joint was JUMPING and there was a wait. No mind, we sat at a rustic bench and enjoyed…
 This wine, which was similar to a sauvignon blanc. A little more acidic than I like, and perhaps too dry, but incredibly cheap. A bottle like this would cost twice as much in Manhattan.
Unless we were in the Meatpacking district. 
Then it would be three times as much.
 We started with a classic Greek Salad(olives on the side – and those olives were sweet, meaty and delish). This was just what I expected, only about a thousand times better. The tomatoes were ripe and sweet, the cukes crunchy and almost fragrant, the red onion added a bite but not too much, and there was pepper making the whole thing alive and a bit spicy. And then there was the feta cheese. Be still my heart…that feta cheese was the stuff dreams are made of. Creamy, soft, just salty enough to bring out the flavors of the vegetables…it was milder and more grassy than other fetas I have had. We fought over the dregs of the salad, dragging our crusts of peasant bread through the mouth-puckering vinaigrette that adorned the sweet veggies. 
 Tzatziki. If you don’t get this when you visit a Greek restaurant, you might as well just head to Applebees. What’s the point? Tzatziki is to Greek Cuisine as Butter is to French Cuisine. It practically defines it – for me at least. Made of yogurt, cucumbers, dill and garlic, this was a perfect rendition. It was creamy and tangy, with long spaghetti-like strands of cucumber binding the milky yogurt, the sharp garlic and the earthy dill. This was good on everything – bread, vegetables, fingers.
 Gigantes- Lima Beans stewed with tomatoes. If you think you have had lima beans, that is so nice for you. Till you have had these, you haven’t had lima beans. These are more like huge cannelini beans than anything else, and are so buttery that you could SWEAR that they had been injected with cream. Mild and hearty, they absorbed the rich, umami-filled taste of the stewed tomatoes and sweetly caramelized onions. There were earthy herbs strewn throughout – I know that I tasted spicy oregano in there, and I saw a bay leaf – this was my favorite vegetarian dish of the night. If you like polenta, you will love this for the same rich mouthfeel and filling sensation.
 Octopus Stewed with Tomatoes and Onions. Agnanti is famous for their grilled octopus, and I almost ordered it grilled, but at the last minute, our server convinced us to order the night’s special. As he puts it “When it’s grilled, it can only be great, but when it’s done the chef’s way, it is really something special.”
Touche, sir.
The octopus was incredibly tender, with just the merest sense of the ocean, like a piece of shellfish has that very mild seafood taste. It cut with a butter knife and was steeped in a rich and salty olive, tomato and onion stew. This was a dish for lovers of rustic food, and lovers of octopus. It had none of the rubbery texture or acrid flavor that chargrilled octopus can have. It was delicious.
 Shrimp Kataifi – shrimp wrapped in phyllo dough, served in a butter-mustard sauce. This was the richest shrimp dish I have EVER eaten. The large, snappy, perfectly cleaned shrimp were wrapped in crackling strips of phyllo dough and then positively drenched in what seemed like extra-rich butter. The mustard cut the sauce with a bit of acid, but make no mistake…this was butter central. Now, butter and shrimp are a natural combination, but this would be too much for a main course – and this is coming from the foie gras queen! As a shared dish, however, it was perfect, and was a filling and satisfying part of the meal. 
 Fried Bacalao. I LOVE Bacala, and this was the bacala of my junk food dreams – like the Greek version of New England fried seafood. Fried to crisp, pleasantly greasy, golden perfection, a puff of steam escaped as my teeth broke through the outer shell to the smooth texture within. Mild, with enough texture to tell what I was eating, the codfish inside had little or no potato, being totally full of that fresh tasting white fish. IT was served with skordalia, a potato garlic dip that was so strong it brought tears to my eyes. Forget warding off vampires…this was warding off people in Jersey. WAY too strong for me, and the only misstep of the night. Plus, these moist and crispy balls of fried seafood didn’t need anything else.
Other than my mouth. 
That’s what she said
Each table gets a complimentary serving of cornmeal cake with Greek yogurt and Sour Cherries. So, SO good – sweet cake with the slightly grainy texture of corn, creamy yogurt and sweet, tart jam. It is light but feels decadent and is a pleasing way to end a MORE than pleasing meal. 
This meal…all of it…cost just $30 per person. That includes the bottle of wine, some beer, and ALL the food. And when I say all, I didn’t even include the multiple courses of hot pita and peasant bread that were brought to our table. Or our enthusiastic server. Or the fact that we were invited to sit and linger over our glasses of wine even thought the restaurant was hopping. They didn’t want to turn over the table, they wanted us to enjoy our meal. And we did. I would have paid double, but because I didn’t have to, I will be back twice as much. 
And that, my friends, is why you need to get on Twitter.
Agnanti Meze on Urbanspoon

Comments

  1. Seeking Brad says:

    A) we are going again.
    B) Let's try and make that dessert ourselves.

    What a memory!

  2. Ms Alcantara says:

    That looks amazing. I've never seen lima beans prepared that way and am dying to try…

    P.S. Your vibrant, colorful, hilarious writing makes my day; you just make food sound FUN.

  3. LittleDuckie28 says:

    Ms Alcantara- I can say from personal knowledge that Miss Fritos IS, in fact, quite fun.

  4. Annoula says:

    mmm agnanti is definitely the best place for greek food!

  5. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @SeekingBrad-YES AND YES!
    @MsAlcantara-well, coming from someone I admire as a writer, that is a REAL compliment! Thank you so much chica!!!
    @LittleDuckie28-I have trained you well…
    @Annoula-We are clearly on the same page ;)

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