Unintentionally, this week involved an exploration of Greek seafood restaurants in Astoria ... gotta say I miss that part of the city. I never lived there but Aviva did when we started dating, and we spent a lot of great times wandering around the neighborhood. While the NE Bronx might be a nice place to live and a wonderful place from which to commute to work and school, it is not so great for evening socializing.
On Monday night we met up with Aviva's "cousin" Stacy and her friend Ben, for a later dinner at Taverna Kyclades, a pleasant, indoor/outdoor restaurant at Ditmars and 33rd. We have been to this place before, when my father visited last October, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We had been placed at a table outside, and as we were perusing the menus a woman at the next table leaned over and said, "Try the scallops. They are delicious." She went on to explain that she lived in Astoria and had been coming to this restaurant at least once a week for 11 years. My father, who no longer eats shellfish (much to his detriment in my opinion) asked her what else was good, and she said "I never get anything but the scallops, they are the best anywhere. " Well, that was about as good a recommendation as I have ever heard, so I did get the scallops and they were in fact delicious.
This time, though Ben got the sea bass, both Aviva and Stacy ordered the scallops, and even though I wanted to, I thought three plates of scallops was a bit much, so I got the shrimp stuffed with crab. I was kind of fascinated with the idea of shrimp being stuffed with anything, as they are quite small. We also got some fried calamari and a greek salad, and altogether the meal was fantastic. The shrimp were good but not great, but again the calamari was incredible, and since each scallop dish came with so many of the little buggers, I got to eat plenty of scallops as well. We had a great time, Stacy was just awesome, as always, and Ben, despite being slightly obsessed about ultimate frisbee (an obsession I heartily approve of), turned out to be a very cool guy.
So the next night, we followed up that wonderful dinner with a second fabulous meal, this time at a place called Philoxenia, also in Astoria, at 34th Av. and 32nd street. Unlike the previous restaurant, this place is all inside, and had a homey, almost European feel to the interior. Apparently the place is made up to make one feel comfortable and at home, something that they definitely achieved. We hadn't actually chosen the place, my uncle Eric, who we had not seen for most of the summer, had been there before and really loved it. Eric, my aunt Rhonda and my cousin Ben (who is currently visiting from Israel, where he plays French Horn for the Jerusalem symphony) showed up about 5 minutes after we got there.
Although the menu was covered in delicious looking seafoods, our dinner actually consisted of 9 or 10 different, fabulous greek tapas, ranging from meatballs to stewed veal to grilled eggplant baba ganouj. Combined with the pita and olive dip it made for an incredible meal. As we slowly, luxuriously made our way through the different courses, we talked about our summer; Bens time in Israel, Eric & Rhondas vacation in California, our trip to Prague ... great time. After dinner, we passed on what would certainly have been a fantastic dessert to head back to Eric & Rhondas in Long Island City to eat a peach pie Aviva had baked from the peaches we picked in New Jersey last weekend. We hung out for a while, enjoying the pie and talking with Jake, Eric & Rhondas younger son, when he came by to do laundry, before heading home to the Bronx and wrapping up another fabulous evening.