Greek Food at Stamatis (23rd Avenue, Astoria)
Dear Jim et al.,
Your review excoriates Stamatis over poor Avgolemono soup and mediocre greek salad.
Allow me to suggest three dishes I eat regularly at Stamatis 23rd Avenue, which are fail-safe in my book:
1. For a great twist on Avgolemono, try the Dolmades Avgolemono (stuffed cabbage with minced pork), this is lemony and just wonderful, you should call in advance to reserve an order, they sell out quickly and frequently,
2. Melitzanosalata (eggplant/garlic/feta spread) this was the most pungent and garlicky version I have ever tasted in any Greek restaurant, PERIOD.
3. The grilled striped bass has never failed me here, it may appear ho-hum, but its charming simplicity and honesty make for a complete meal.
4. (extra bonus) The Octopus (Oktapodi in Greek) is inconsistent, but if you get it and it is right, it can be amongst the tenderest you've ever had.
Rafael--welcome to the site!
Let me straighten out some points:
1. my dining diary entries are not reviews, as is carefully noted at the top in great big letters
2. I've been going to Stamatis for literally 13 years, since it was a semi-private social club where you ate under a weeping willow tree on 31st Street. And I raved about it in my book (which WAS a review...I visited several times right before I handed in my manuscript and was extremely careful to note and analyze everything that went past my lips.
3. there's no such thing as a never-fail dish. dishes in restaurants don't have minds of their own...as if the soup might somehow be more capricious than the Melitzanosalata. Places change, and the dishes change with them. Chefs leave or get bored. Owners get cheap and start cutting the ingredient budget. Any number of variables can make places deteriorate. After 13 years of experience Stamatis, I detected, two visits in a row, a major change in what was coming out of the kitchen. I detected it with just three dishes, and while they're three dishes I've had countless times from that restaurant (and through which I feel I can peer into the very soul of the chef), I'd never write a negative review on the basis of such a small sampling. But I know one thing for sure...the old chef didn't make them. No way.
And I DIDN'T write a negative review. I just noted the problem as I saw it in my informal diary. A conclusion in progress. Maybe the old chef was on vacation, who knows. Other reports and opinions are always welcome, as the restaurant scene is in constant flux. That's what this site's for...to monitor the flux. Try to figure out what's what and who's where and what's good. It's like a shell game, and Chowhound.com exists to even up the odds for the customers.
re: your statement about "the most pungent and garlicky version I have ever tasted in any Greek restaurant, PERIOD"......Frankly, that's no great trick. Anybody can add tons of garlic to a dish. The key is balance...just the exact RIGHT amount of tons of garlic. And balance--especially in the skordalia--was always the thing Stamatis had....and, I pray, has still. Time for another check-up.