Heads &Tales: Astoria By day and Molyvos at Night


After my big night on the town in New York with a long-awaited arrival in my bed at 4:30am, Sunday greeted me all too quickly and despite the lack of sleep (early riser here) I was determined to continue my tour of New York.

One of my curiosities was to visit Astoria. It’s known as New York’s Greektown and the Greek population of the New York City area is rivaled only by that of Melbourne, Australia.

My goal was to see if the Greeks in Astoria had a larger availability of Greek products than what I can find in Toronto’s Greektown (Danforth) and to conduct some quick price comparisons.
By and large, Toronto has all that New York offers by way of Greek products, some prices in New York were cheaper but nothing was really out of whack pricewise and, I breathed a sigh of relief (many Greeks in Toronto feel they pay exorbitant prices).

I felt very much at “home” in Astoria, walking among my peeps, chatting with shop owners in Greek and feeling comfort that Greece does exist beyond it’s geographical borders. Hellenism is an ideal.

Fast forward to Sunday night and I didn’t have any firm plans with anybody but hey, I’m a big guy and I can handle myself in the city. Armed with my New York City guide, I flipped through the dining pages and found some Greek restaurants I’ve been meaning to try out.

Tonight Molyvos was on the dance card. I assume the restaurant got it’s name from a town of the Greek island of Mytilini (Lesvos) and the restaurant has been around for years and despite my dining on a Sunday, business at this centrally located eatery was brisk.

Jim Botsacos is the chef and partner and somewhat of a media darling when it comes to Greek cooking in the media. One only has to Google this fellow to see that this guy gets around.

Upon entering Molyvos, one is put to ease with the warm, dark wooded decor and you’re immediately greeted and seated by the hostess.

The service here is prompt, efficient and one never gets the sense that they are being rushed. I was given a wine menu, an appetizer/meze menu and a dinner menu…all on offer on this cool New York City night.

For starters, I opted for a glass of Babatzim Ouzo with ice and I was given some complementary Roasted Red Pepper Dip to hold me until my orders arrived.

I opted to try their “Garides Saganaki” which was refreshingly different from the way I serve it. The Molyvos approach to the Greek classic was to (of course) serve it in a two-handles Saganaki vessel but the sauce was more of a broth than a thick, tomato sauce.

The use of butter and olive oil was obvious, diced tomatoes, some chillis rounded out the sauce and the ‘must have’ shrimp and feta finished off the dish. This “take” on Garides Saganaki was a pleasant surprise as the addition of Greek basil was the star heb (usually oregano).

For my entree, I chose the skate wing with pastourma and a walnut avgolemeno with a bed of rice pilaf. The skate wing was pan fried, a bit of corn meal was detected in the crust and the thins slice of pastourma sandwiched between the two skate wing pieces gave the dish a wonderful and earthy taste.

My dinner was enjoyed with a pairing of a white Assyrtiko from the island of Santorini and it also paired well with my dessert. I capped the evening with a well-made Greek coffee (made by a non-Greek) and served with their Revani with kumquat preserve and whipped cinnamon cream.

Molyvos delivered value for money (I was actually full), the service prompt and courteous and they offered some nice twists to Greek cuisine without alienating it.

Once again, the highlight for me was the Garides Saganki and if you want to see my usual approach, have a look here but if you want the Molyvos-inspired version…here’s my take on a bread-dipping heavens-to-goodness Garides (shrimp) Saganaki.

Molyvos Inspired Garides Saganaki
(serves 4)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 pads of unsalted butter

1/4 cup diced onions
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 hot chilli

1 pint of roasted cherry tomatoes

(halved)
1 small red pepper, diced (1/3 cup) 1/4 cup dry white wine
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. of shrimp, peeled & deveined

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tsp. dry Greek Oregano

1 shot of Ouzo
a few leaves of Greek basil
1 cup of Greek feta, cubed

salt to taste

extra-virgin olive oil

  1. In a saucepan, add your oilve oil and butter and over medium-high heat, add your onions, garlic and peppers and saute for a minute or two then reduce to medium and simmer for another 5 minutes or until the onions have softened. Now add the wine and tomatoes and bring to a boil and then reduce back to a simmer and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
  2. Take off the heat, adjust seasoning (very little salt needed as Feta will finish the dish), add your Ouzo, parsley and oregano and stir in.
  3. Set your oven to the Broiler setting and begin assembling your Saganaki vessels for baking. Using a ladle, pour the sauce equally into each baking vessel and then divide the shrimp into each serving. Top each serving with the cubes of feta and place under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the the shrimp have turned pink and your cheese is golden.
  4. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and place some basil leaves in each bowl and serve with some wedges of pita bread.

© 2008 – 2009,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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48 Comments for “Heads &Tales: Astoria By day and Molyvos at Night”

The Culinary Chase

says:

Peter, this looks so delicious & easy! Me thinks this is another one of yours to make. Cheers!

Maryann

says:

The photo of Radio City always brings back warm memories of yearly visits to the Christmas show with my grandmother. I’m enjoying all your photos, Peter. Too bad I live up north a couple of hours or I would have loved to have met you. Maybe next time..Happy (american)Thanksgiving, Kid! :)

Judy@nofearentertaining

says:

I am loving this tour of NYC. Having never been (been planned before but rebuild of house after hurricane took priority)I am all the more determined to get there.

Mary

says:

Peter, your photos of New York have made me homesick. Your dinner selections and narrative have made me hungry. I’m off to the kitchen.

Núria

says:

What a tour, chico!!! What were you up to until 4:30 in the morning? Ai, ai, ai… you don’t speak about the night life… maybe in the next post? ;D

Love to see the Greek area: the shops and restaurants, but most of it, love the recipe!!!! What is it about shrimps? Ain’t they the tastier? I love them too :D

Any letters from Toto?

FOODalogue: Meandering Meals and Travels

says:

You got some fabulous shots, particularly Radio City and the skyline. Good thing you put your logo on them!
P.S. Love shrimp saganaki. It’s a must-order for me at every Greek restaurant.

Peter G

says:

Peter you’ve done well! That sounds like an amazing feast! Like Nuria, I’m curious to know what activities got you to bed so late!…LOL

joanne @ frutto della passione

says:

Wow, it all looks delicious. Sounds like you had way too much fun. I hope you’re working very hard now to make up for it ;)

Jen of A2eatwrite

says:

Continuing wonderful tales! Such a rich time in NYC. Thanks for the sharing – another thing for this American to be thankful for today!

jesse

says:

Hi Peter, this is my first visit here… and may I just say, your photos are unbelievably gorgeous. How inspiring! Thank you for sharing them with us… and happy Thanksgiving!

Rosie

says:

I am so enjoying this tour of NYC Peter. Up till 4:30am oh my what a night out! The food looks excellent.

Rosie x

annamtl

says:

Hi Peter,
I am so enjoying your NYC series. I see you went to Mediterranean foods. Did you to Titan foods as weell? Just curious to know if in Toronto you have as many greek products as they have in the Astoria greek markets, because in Montreal the selection is really pathetic! Whenever I go to NYC, I stock up on a few things, especially cans of Noynoy milk; I love that stuff!

Mediterranean kiwi

says:

i love saganaki, but we never order enough of it when we go out, so i am always the ‘polite’ one who never eats as much as she deserves!

as for nounou milk, fresh tastes best…

Anonymous

says:

Peter hi, I frequently read your blog and enjoy your love for our Greek food -yes I am Greek and very proud of it too! (και καλοφαγού επίσης! :-))
But being born and raised in Lesvos I have to correct you on something. Molyvos is not the capital of the island, but Mytilini. Indeed the island’s older name was Mytilini too, but now only its capital is known by that.
Na’sai panta kala kai na kaneis polla taksidia!

Ivy

says:

New York sounds great. Thanks for showing us around as I don’t think we’ll ever cross the ocean. BTW what is Porgies? It makes me think of a similar Greek word with “d” in the middle which makes me laugh.

Gloria

says:

I see, I see the party go on!!! wow!!The pictures so beauty and the food delicious!! aah! the Greeks!!!! Gloria

Choosy Beggar Tina

says:

I always wanted to see New York, now I’m longing to.

Peter, I know that you will likely be more appalled by this than the fact that I made moussaka with tofu, but I had no idea that saganaki could refer to a delicious looking shrimp dish….I thought that it was just fried cheese….I’m sorry…..see? This is why I need your blog.

Zen Chef

says:

The Garide saganaki sounds great and love the combination shrimp/feta. I better get my butt to Molyvos and have a taste.

I’m learning more about Greek food in NY from your trip, than 12 years living here. Damned! Come back often!

born_in_NYC

says:

You need to be on TV
Your visuals/photos are so good…as always
You really get this NYC trip across to me just looking on the internet

farida

says:

I have never been to NY and your post makes me want to go there. If I do go, I will make sure to visit Greek town. Loved the shrimp dish! Thanks for sharing the recipe. Happy belated Thanksgiving!

Nina Timm

says:

All these dishes make me want to travel to far off places, Peter!!! At the moment I’ll have to go to these places in my kitchen, trying new recipes. Thx for sharing!!!

Laurie Constantino

says:

I’ve always wanted to go to Astoria, so thanks for taking us along on the ride!

In New Greek Cuisine, Jim Botsacos’ cookbook, John Livanos, the owner of Molyvos writes an introduction explaining the origin of the name: “For my family and me, the creation of Molyvos represents not only a lifetime of work but also the joy of growing up in a small fishing village on the island of Lesvos in Greece. The memory of the village of Molyvos is kept alive throught my children, who have spent many summers in what is always remembered as a very magical, almost mythical setting…We are proud to bring a little of Molyvos to New York…”

melissa

says:

Just catching up. Thanks for the NYC posts. I miss that city very much.

Love everything so far, the sights and the food. Glad you had that feeling of home in Astoria. How lovely that must have been.

Lore

says:

Molyvos sure looks very Greek, there’s a certain warmth, almost family-like. I sure crave some pastrouma now lol :)

cook eat FRET

says:

hi peter, i’m in nyc around the corner from molyvos. we’ll go before we leave, always do. but last night we ate at kefi. same chef as anthos – which is considered THE new greek place in town, also right here on 52nd off 5th, but kefi is more traditional and down home. the food was a total a+. i was blown away. and it was nearly 40% less that molyvos.

we had incredible mussels, sweetbreads, beef and pork meatballs, lamb shank, grilled octopus with chick peas (unreal), pork kebab, white bean soup that was a special and blew our mind – and the bread was KILLER.

maybe next time…

Grace

says:

and here i thought i’d never be hungry again after the amount of food i put away on thanksgiving…silly me. :)

Anonymous

says:

Peter, it was nice meeting in NY…..Greek cuisine has made strides and you can find at least 6-7 types of Greek rests from ecclectic (Anthos) to high end (Milos) to wholesome and cute (Pylos) to great tavernas with style (Kellari, Avra, Molyvos) to simple tavernas (Uncle Nick’s, Ethos) to your corner every day souvlaki joint….that all have well developed wine progrmas and offer variety and quality that offer a great insight to the world class “Greek wines of today”

Hope to see you next time

K

Cynthia

says:

It is always satisfying to find ethnic restaurants living up to their standards and taste even with their twists.

Sounds and looks like a great meal.

We Are Never Full

says:

fabulous! we’re back!! tired, but back in the states. i’m excited to do some catching up blog-wise with you. since we basically just hung out w/ you i feel like i’m kind of caught up but seeing your pictures is awesome. gotta say, you’ve definitely made this new yorker think about new places to dine. thank you!

Bellini Valli

says:

As you may already know Peter Aglaia Kremezi who runs the cooking school on Kea is a menu and recipe consultant for Molyvos, which was awarded three stars by Ruth Reichl of the New York Times. She and her husband are such lovely and generous people. Her recipe for Garides Saganaki for the restaurant is in her cookbook “The Foods of the Greek Island” . I am waiting impatiently for the Spring when her new cookbook comes out!!!!

glamah16

says:

I love Skate fish. Did you make it ot Carnegie deli. To die for, Glad the array of products and prices are similar.

Proud Italian Cook

says:

I would love that shrimp and feta right now! boy does that look good!
Loving all your photo’s Peter.What a great trip!

Marianna

says:

peter, your blog is looking twice as delicious with all those mouthwatering & beautiful dishes you've been eating in NYC!! yum!