All Columns in Alphabetical Order

Monday, January 10, 2011

Peachy Picks Ithaka

Ithaka was first featured in Tasty Tidbits:

We are pleased to announce it has graduated to Peachy's Picks!  The true authentic Greek cuisine and the hospitality of George Hadjiparaskevas the owner were fabulously delightful.  As she is a graduate of Boston College, Peachy Deegan never went greek then because as a Jesuit school there is not that kind of Greek life, and we have no regrets.  The best kind of Greek life worth living is found at 308 East 86th street on the Upper East Side!  There was not an empty seat in the house, so we highly recommend calling ahead for reservations.  

From the moment you walk in and check your coat, you are transported to the Mediterranean and you will wonder where your yacht is.  If you are lucky enough, because we imagine George cannot speak to each and every table at length, he will tell you great stories about how the name Ithaka came to be and the history of this family business.  There is also another restaurant in Albany owned by the Hadjiparaskevas family.

Setting Ithaka apart was the visual demonstration of the fish for dinner that was shown to us before we placed our order:
Peachy, who never needs any convincing to order fish of all things, was highly impressed and wishes she had about 5 stomachs (Thank God she's not a cow though; don't they have multiple stomachs?) for all of the fabulous seafood combinations offered by Ithaka, but that is why she has a panel, silly!

Peachy Deegan began with the Maroulosalata salad: thinly chopped romaine lettuce, scallions and dill with extra virgin olive oil.  This is a classic example of how less is more in life, and it was a super fresh start to our night of greek authenticity from beginning to end.  She's never had Taramosalata, which is carp mousse, but she is pleased to report this is one winning cold appetizer that your dinner at Ithaka should not be without!
Finally Peachy, who normally is quite decisive and almost ordered the red snapper, decided on the Souvlaki apo Thalssina which means in English broiled shrimp and scallops with tomato, green peppers and onions.  The seafood was cooked perfectly to the exact tenderness desired, bravo sous chef Felix; we can tell you've been with George, and Harry his father for seventeen years!  The rice was exquisitely seasoned and the vegetables were the angelic component:
The culinary panel raves:

A bounce to the Upper Ease side of Manhattan on 86th Street will find you in front of a Greek taverna named: Ithaka.  Solidly located on this busy thoroughfare, Ithaka was formerly in the West Village for many years on 48 Barrow Street between Bedford and 7th. George, the owner with his father, Harry, cultivate familiarity, both in the atmosphere and the menu. The warmth of the room welcomes you from the first hello from George.
At the table, happily ensconced and pouring over the menu, you are now approached by your waiter, almost immediately, to tell you about the day's selections in addition to the wide range on the menu.  He will "show you the fish" with panache, (as shown above, the fish is presented glossy eyed and whole on a platter for your admiration) and gladly help with selections both from the food and the wine choices.
While perusing the possibilities, I enjoyed a glass of Agiorgitiko with the Taramasalata.  Not to be missed, this Greek classic is mostly described as whipped caviar.  On Ithaka's menu it's called "Carp Mousse", and you can find it in the cold appetizer selections.  The subtle garlic of the Tarama didn't overwhelm, and the St. George balanced it perfectly.  As a matter of fact, the wine matched well with the whole meal.  I can see myself sitting in this room in summer, with a salad and glass of wine, but for this blustery winter evening, I dove into what I can only call Greek comfort food.  The Garides Grecolimano is a plate well known, popular, and open to interpretation.  At Ithaka, they marinate their jumbo shrimp in ouzo, to better impart a hint of the anise to the seafood.  The claypot that comes to the table with the dish is filled with a delightful tomato and feta sauce, with the shrimp.  
Baked together, the flavors meld and marry wonderfully.  Served with rice, it's a comforting dish for anytime, but oh so good in the winter.
The peloponnesian selections on the wine list are fascinating, and on another night, a tasting is in order.  So many choices!  From the St. George to a typical ouzo, the wine list will bear experimenting.  Another reason to stop by.
One more note: this is the perfect place to have that "dinner and a movie" night.  With the movie theatre not two steps away, it's a reason to go out and enjoy.  And if you go, make sure to take an order of what George calls Greek donuts with you to the movies.  Better than popcorn, and so much fun, they're small balls of a light dough, dripping in honey and walnuts.  Bliss.

White walls and ethnic decor reminded me of a little restaurant in Santorini that I once visited.. The wait staff was kind and seemed as though they had all been working there together for years.  Felix, the executive chef, has been working with the restaurant (at the old an now "new" location) for 17 years.  For the table, sourdough bread, pita and a red pepper / olive oil delight.  Taramosalta, a carp mousse, a traditional Greek appetizer was the perfect way to start the meal, as opposed to the tried and true Tzatziki.  The mousse's consistency was seamless.  
I started with the Kotosoupa Avoglemono, "chicken egg lemon soup with vegetables and rice," shown above.  The broth was very thick and flavorful.   For my entree, I tried the Psari Plaki, "red snapper baked with feta cheese, fresh tomato sauce, fresh herbs, onions and garlic." 
The snapper was very fresh and the tomato sauce and onions were caramelized and abounded.  Being a garlic lover, my penchant for garlic was not disappointed. There were half cloves of garlic throughout the dish. The brown rice was perfect, as well as the asparagus and carrots.  Everything was very fresh.  For dessert, there was a plate of "Loukoumades"; donuts with crushed walnuts and a sweet dipping sauce.  The restaurant was charming, as well as the owner and staff.  If I lived in the neighborhood I could see it being a place I would go for my "Greek fix".  The entrees are expensive and relatively large portions; so might suggest a couple appetizers and sharing an entree.

Stepping into Ithaka felt like stepping out of New York City's Upper East Side and into a family run restaurant in a small town in Greece.  The atmosphere was comforting, and the staff was friendly and welcoming.  The restaurant was bustling with families, couples, and friends all looking to enjoy a delicious Greek meal with the people they care most about.  Our meal started out with warm, crusty bread and pita wedges served with an addictive olive oil dip that was infused with red pepper and spices.  Additionally, we tried the Taramosalata, a carp mousse, with our pita wedges.  Despite some of my initial reservations, the topping turned out to be rich, flavorful and delicious.  
For the next course, I had Ithaka's Salad.  The salad is a blend of the freshest ingredients including arugula, watercress, radicchio, avocado, and olives.  It's topped with the light and sweet Ithaka dressing.  For my main course, I tried the Mousaka.  The savory layers of eggplant, potatoes, and chopped lamb and beef were exactly what I was looking for to keep me warm and fill me up on such a cold January night.  The side of carrots and asparagus were tender and juicy, and the potato was soft and very tasty.    The meal also came with a side of rice as well.  Ithaka has true winner with this traditional Greek dish!  For dessert, we were served Loukoumades, crispy Greek doughnuts topped with honey and walnuts.  
This Greek specialty was to die for as you can see above!  They certainly satisfied my sweet tooth, and even still tasted amazing after bringing some extras home with me.  Ithaka is an excellent restaurant, that I would highly recommend to anyone, especially if you are seeking out Greek fare.  The food was excellent and the service was friendly.  I look forward to my next meal at Ithaka!

Whom You Know recommends Ithaka!

Back to TOP