BY BRADLEY HAWKS
A love affair with Astoria’s food scene would be incomplete without an appreciation of the neighborhood’s rich Greek tradition. Bringing that tradition into a contemporary light comes Thymari.
The menu at Thymari, which means thyme, is peppered with the standard glossary of Greek cuisine: dolmades, feta, saganaki, spanakopita, and kalamata. But the chef carefully applies subtle nuances to the seemingly familiar recipes.
The shrimp saganaki appears as a clay dish lavishly arranged with jumbo prawns in a robust vine-ripened tomato sauce with sequins of scallion and snowdrops of feta. The hint of anise comes from masticha, an oil drawn from raisin-like berries found in Northern Greece.
An entirely different saganaki—this time as expected, with cheese—encrusts a delicately mild Arahova feta with sesame seeds, which is pan-fried, then ribboned with a sash of wild berry compote.
Owner Konstantinos Batalamas designed the restaurant with one of his childhood friends from Greece. It spans from a sunny open-front café and bar to an expansive, dramatically lit dining room which also doubles as a photography gallery.
A few flavorsome newcomers pop up, like a bouquet of mussels in a golden broth of krokos (Greek saffron). The Thalassinon orzo is studded with thyme-kissed medallions of shrimp and mussels in a rich tomato reduction. A Greek spin on chicken pot pie, kotopita, layers flaky country-style phyllo stuffed with spiced chicken and peppers in a creamy béchamel. Whole branzino (Mediterranean sea bass) is butterflied, seared, and served on a pedestal of roasted new potatoes, arugula, cherry tomatoes, capers, shallots, and olives shimmering in olive oil and lemon zest.
Weekend brunch is heightened with a gorgeous strapatsada omelet, as well as traditional Greek sweet bread nuanced into French toast, served with a whipped dollop of homemade chocolate hazelnut Greek yogurt. Try a bellini with pressed sour cherry juice for a refreshing brunch bubbly.
Desserts shine with a stemless martini glass of Greek custard made from homemade, strained, and whipped yogurt draped with a luxurious walnut amaretto caramel. And the classic baklava is practically unrivaled, even in this neighborhood.
Thymari also boasts the largest selection of Greek wines anywhere in the area, with over fifty bottles, as well as a playful mix of cocktails, including a baklava martini.
Acoustic pop and rock on Thursdays and Fridays turns the scene into a destination. Check the website for a schedule of upcoming artists.
32-07 34th Ave, Astoria
Tuesday-Friday, 5 p.m. to close
Saturday, Sunday, 11 a.m. to close
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