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Greek Feast in Astoria at Stamatis

September 16, 2012

Who would have thought that it would be so challenging to find an open restaurant on Labor Day in Long Island City?  I think we literally walked to four restaurants within a 10 block radius with absolutely no luck.  MD and I stood below the Court Square station for a good five minutes before an idea hit us.  What about Astoria?  The neighborhood was merely a transfer away on the N train and full of delicious Greek restaurants.  One particular one, Stamatis, came highly recommended from a colleague and after a few texts later for specifics, we were armed with must-have recommendations and on the N train headed north to Astoria.

Stamatis is located right off of the end of the N train at the Astoria-Ditmars station, not the Broadway station (be careful because there is another Stamatis in Astoria!).  A long stretch of the front of the restaurant was taken up by a take-out portion and we could immediately smell the delicious food being churned out by the kitchen.  The restaurant itself is large, filled with white tableclothed table and old-fashion wood chairs.  Because it’s a holiday weekend, the restaurant was only half full, mostly with large families already feasting.

Because we came armed with a list of suggestions, we did not waste any time and jumped right in with a platter of antipasto with a delicious glass of house wine to start.  The small platter came with tarama, skordalia, tzatziki, and eggplant, all very simple and delicious.  The skordalia was perfectly garlicky and reminded me of a perfect potato salad.  Taramosalata dip always wins my heart and the tzatziki dip was well seasoned.

Even though the small antipasto platter was more than enough of an appetizer for us, the thought of saganaki was too tough to resist.  After all, how can you say no to fried cheese?  Our waiter presented the two strips of cheese before taking charge and slicing the cheese into bite size pieces for us.  A touch of lemon to brighten up the otherwise heavy cheese, it was addicting.

 

Just to balance out the fried cheese, we chose the plate of stewed okra.  The portion was much larger than we had anticipated but we had no problem finishing up this dish.  The okra was so tender and flavorful with the tomatoes that had been cooked until it has completely integrated into the okra.

 

By this time of the dinner, MD and I had reluctantly came to the conclusion that we completely over ordered (not surprisingly).  We quickly reformed our game plan and decided to focus on finishing MD’s pork soulaki platter with a side of lemon potatoes.  Three skewers of perfectly grilled seasoned pork came with a warm pita bread and tomatoes, onions and lettuce with a side of the tzatziki sauce.  I loved how each succulent bite of the pork had a smoky char.  It took a bit of work to get them off the skewers but it was well worth the hard work!

 

Moussaka, my choice for the night, was a secondary focus for us.  If you have never had moussaka before, it’s most similar to a lasagna but instead of noodles, you will find a thin layer of potatoes and thin layer of eggplant.  The final result is topped with a bechamel sauce and finished off in the oven.  This hearty stick-to-your-ribs dish was definitely a winter entree.   Even though we were already quite stuffed, we managed to finish 1/3 of this large dish before waving a white flag.

At Stamatis, there was no dessert menu.  When asked for the check, our waiter brought with it a small dish of baked rice pudding.  There’s nothing better than a complimentary dessert and rice pudding just happen to be my favorite.  The rice pudding was baked and came with a crust of cinnamon that seasoned the creamy custard.  This was gone within seconds of hitting our table, a perfect finish to the meal.

We left the restaurant happily content with our enormous meal.  The food was old fashion and simple, no frills or pretense.  It was not only a delicious fresh meal but also a great value as well.  Even though the end of the N train might sound like a far trek, it only took about 15 minutes from Long Island City before we settled into our seats at the restaurant, worth every second on the train.

Stamatis | 2009 23rd Ave , Astoria NY 11105

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