I have been invited to a press dinner at Thalassa, a modern Greek restaurant located in Tribeca that is celebrating its 10 years of existence. Remember when reading this post that it is a press dinner: food is complementary and the staff knows who we are.
Interestingly, I went to this restaurant 10 years ago. I was asked why I never went back and the answer was simple: New York City has so many restaurants that I was just trying different ones. Do not ask me if I remember the food: it was too long ago. However, I remember that the lights were less dimmed (I always notice the light for my photos)...So, I was really excited to go back and try their food!
The restaurant's specialty is seafood as the name Thalassa (Sea in Greek) suggests. This also comes through with the decor as you can see in the photo of the bar below (you can see sails on top).
I like the modern and sophisticated decor of this three levels restaurant. The 30 foot long bar made with ivory marble looks fantastic as well as the main dining room with its white leather chairs and huge columns. It is also nice to see that they left space between tables so you do not have the impression to eat with people you do not know...
They also have an impressive wine list and you can have a glimpse to their wine cellar if you go downstairs. Their cocktail list is also interesting and showcases Thalassa's creations. I went for a Greek pear martini (that I asked in a regular glass because I hate martini glasses: I always end up with some of the cocktail on my shoes!!!). It was fantastic! The taste of the pear really came through and it was not strong at all.
So, as I mentioned, this is a seafood restaurant; they have an amazing display where you have a fresh selection of fish and shellfish. It was beautiful!
Apparently, you can select what you want to eat directly from there. I saw these huge king shrimp called Garides: I bet that grilled, they are fantastic! Looking at this display can only make you hungrier than you were before. At least, it worked for me! We had the opportunity to meet the Chef, Raphael Abrahante. We learnt that he is a native of New York of Puerto Rican origin who never set foot in Greece! During his culinary study, he discovered seafood and got passionate about it. He then worked in a Greek restaurant in Hell's Kitchen, before becoming the Chef at Thalassa.
After we sat at our table, they served us some olives and hummus.
The hummus seemed to be freshly made and had a strong chickpea taste. It was served with some homemade bread that was very good. In fact, they brought us later on some pita that was also homemade and delicious!
Then, they brought us some meze. Meze are small dishes served in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Balkans. It is great for tasting and also sharing!
The first one was a cod fritter.
It was an amuse bouche. Very good and not greasy that is always appreciated with fritters!
The second meze was zucchini and eggplant chips.
I really liked it, although I would have preferred it hot. The chips were crispy and not greasy with the veggies perfectly cooked. They were served with tzatziki sauce that was a perfect pairing!
The last meze was Pikilia Mediterranean dips:
They were served with some homemade pita. I have to admit that I do not recall all the dips, but for sure I noticed the first on the left that was an eggplant caviar that was fabulous. The tzatziki sauce was also delicious. It is clearly a perfect dish for sharing and start a meal!
Then came the first course: Grilled Octopadi from Portugal.
It is a grilled octopus served with micro organic greens, olive oil and a red wine vinaigrette. This was my favorite! The octopus was perfectly cooked, not chewy and had a nice char. I loved the fact that you could really taste that it was grilled. I would not have minded a bit less vinaigrette though.
The second course was veal dolmas (grape leaves).
The grape leaves were stuffed with veal and rice, and drizzled with Avgolemono sauce (sauce made with egg and lemon). This dish did not work for me: although the stuffing was good, there was too much grape leaves, making it tough and bitter. The sauce other wise was good with a nice subtle lemon taste.
The third course was the Maine Diver Scallop wrapped in Kataifi filo, served with a sheep's milk butter and kalamata olive reduction.
I was excited to try this as it seems it is one of their signature dishes. Unfortunately, I did not like it. I think the main issue is that the dough was too greasy and there was too much of it, so you could not taste the scallop. I then tried to eat the scallop alone but it tasted bland. For sure, I acknowledge the fact that it is difficult to make a complicated dish that would not overpower the delicate taste of scallop.
The fourth course was the Mediterranean Lavraki (Branzino or Loup de Mer in French).
The fish was served with a New Zealand Langoustine, a garlic almond mousse and okra. I liked the langoustine that was conveniently separated from the shell. It was perfectly cooked and fresh. However, I did not like the fish that was slightly overcooked, maybe because it sat before being brought to the table immediately. The garlic almond mousse was good, but too cold compared to the rest of the dish.
Then came an assortment of dessert. In fact I think we were lucky to try all of them! I do not remember all of them, but clearly remember the panna cotta that was topped with some delicious caramelized pear, the valrhona molten chocolate cake and the Greek yoghurt that was served with toasted walnuts. All of the desserts looked phenomenal and were delicious. This was a nice surprise to finish the meal!
Although I did not like all the dishes and we had to wait a long time between each of them, I had a good time at Thalassa with my fellow bloggers. When we were there, there was even a guitar player who played quietly in a corner of the restaurant, contributing to the relaxed atmosphere of the place (there is live music every Wednesday). I like the concept of modern and elevated Greek food, although sometimes less is better and one of the particularity of Greek food, especially for seafood, is to cook simply the main ingredient so it remains the star of the dish.
Enjoy (I always do)!
And remember: I Just Want To Eat!