Porgy and Bliss
- Lisa Antinore
Had a wonderful evening at Astoria's Telly's Taverna last night. I realize it's been on a couple of downhill lists as of late (even my own), but last night's marvelous meal restored it to it's prior status with me- THE BEST!!!!
After waiting 35 minutes in the miniscule corridor (wasn't bad at all- got acquainted with all the fresh fish in the showcase, watched the grillers masterfully go about their tasks, and observed the Greek customers' menu choices.....) we were seated. We promptly began with a small dandelion salad (large enough for three EASILY) a plate of fantastic skordalia doused with fragrant olive oil (even my fat-free obsessed dining companion couldn't resist dipping his bread into the traces of oil at the edge of the dish..) and a platter of BBQed octupus sprinkled with a delicate vinagrette (here my fat-free BoyToy reverted to his fat-shunning ways and proceeded to cut the gelatinous, fatty BBQed rim off each chunk which sent the owner and me into a giggling fit...)
Enter the main courses- grilled red mullet for him and the most BLISSFUL porgy for me- two whole fish charred to perfection, drizzled with olive oil and wild oregano, and a squeeze of juicy lemon- the flesh was snow white and incredibly moist and sweet.... MMMMMMM!!! We also had a plate of fried potato rounds (guess who partook?) and a bowl of butter beans in a flavorful tomato sauce.
My Sicilan roomate at NYU used to justify her need for something sweet at the end of ALL meals with her Raguzza-born nonna's advice:"Dobbiamo fare la bocca con un dolcetti" (the gist- We have to have something sweet touch our mouths...) I heeded her wise grandmama's suggestion and asked the waitress for a plate of honey coated balls of fried dough (kind of like zeppole, forgot the name, louganika- something..not louganiko, I know that's the sausage..HELP ME JIM!!!!...) We, mostlly I, (the sight of fried dough had sent him close to the edge by now...) enjoyed the sweets with a tiny cup of Greek coffee and a shot of OUZO... (The kind waitress observed how much I loved the honeyballs and sent me home with a little aluminum container of them- she even put some holes in the top of it so the steam would escape and they'd stay crisp..) AND we each got double kisses from her for "the New Year".... Who could ask for more?
After, we drove down to Shore Blvd. by Astoria Park (do this if you go to Telly's) and took in the gorgeous Gotham skyline looming across the dark, luminous river."God- you don't get this is Plainview..." my urban-deprived friend said. "Let's go Jogging..." NOT!!!!! Went home, slept well, and dreamed about PORGY and BLISS... Sheer perfection...
Loukoumades, I think, are the dessert.
I am a real porgy fan, and the place sounds great.
Please advise a semi-deprived chowhound -- If you only
had one seafood meal to eat in the neighborhood, would
you go to Telly's or to the Egyptian place (Al
"HELP ME JIM!!!!"
sorry, lisa...I usually call them "honey coated balls of fried dough (kind of like zeppole)" myself...
Like I stopped following baseball when the Mets traded Tug McGraw, I'm kind of off Greek Astoria since the closings a few years ago of Taygetos, Cyprus Taverna, and the original Stimatis, the three best places. Here's the story: a new generation has come into its own here; not the older people who remember Greece and love food, but their Americanized kids who go to lousy bakeries like Ommonia because there's neon in the window, rather than good old standbys like Lefkos Piergos (where only squares from the previous generation go). They actually follow Zagat and other Manhattan press for their own cuisine (!), joining the Manhattan foodie sheep at crappy places like Uncle George's, Tony's Souvlaki, Greek Sea Captain and Elias' Corner.
It's just shameful; the old places are declining and closing, and the new ones are trendy and awful (like the odious Zodiac on Newtown).
But, having said all this, yes, Telly's Taverna is as close as you can come to the old days (though your long long wait is one indication that this place--after a few good reviews--has become the latest Manhattanite darling, and thus is doomed). There may be a couple of REALLY great places still tucked in the corners, but I haven't yet unearthed them, and I'm not exactly working full tilt at it (another factor in my pullout from Greek Astoria is Mediterranean Grill in Bayside, which was cooking on a much higher level than anyone in Astoria for a while, though I've heard it may have gone downhill. hmm...I've gotta get out there...)
re: Jim Leff
Once they closed the old Elia's and moved across the
street one visit was enough for me. Mrs K is half
Greek,half Sicilian so we go to Astoria quite often and
have basically settled on Telly's because it is fairly
consistent and since we're known there they do take
care of us.
Jim, I know what you mean about Taygetos (30-11 30th
Ave.) That was Grandma's cooking at its best. Their
lamb shanks with veggies and potatoes did not have an
equal. I used to drive my car near there, park, eat at
Taygetos and then get on the subway to the Ranger game.
Ah Memories! Regards, JK
re: Jim Leff
Sorry to hear about your Telly's trauma....It's so bizarre that we had such vastly different experiences within days. I still stand by my assessment, however if I was treated half as poorly as you were I'd never set foot in the place again.
The atmosphere was as upbeat as it gets on the evening I was there... carousing and singing and lots of toasting to the soon-to-be new year.. As I had mentioned, the waitress (extremely efficient and warm) even kissed us goodbye and sent me away with a little plate of the honeyballs which were NOT, on that evening, greasy and I HATE grease!!! :o). Not that that matters much. The main attraction, the food, was right on the money ....
I'm actually meeting an old professor there for dinner at the end of the month (she's a BBQed octupus devotee). I hope I get a repeat of MY last visit and not yours, or I too will swear it off for at least a year.