Loi Estiatorio, New York City – Restaurant Review

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A few days later, we were indeed back, this time with friends, and were seated at a table for four near the window after a warm welcome from Chef Loi.

Chef Loi, as comfortable in the front of the house as the back, greets customers warmly – even after a few weeks she already has many regulars – and checks on every table. The attention she lavishes makes every diner at the restaurant feel very special.

We declined menus and decided to place our evening in her hands. After checking for any possible food allergies, she set off for the kitchen. She came back faster than expected as she wanted to recommend one of her favorite bottles of wine, a Dougos Pandeia Assyrtiko, which was excellent. Assyrtiko is a white Greek grape indigenous to the island of Santorini, but it is also found in Thessaly, which is where our bottle originated. Pandeia (sometimes spelt “Pandia”) was Zeus and Selene’s daughter and the goddess of the full moon. In the glass, the aromatic yellow-green white had wonderful peach and white fruit flavors and the finish had a note of sweetness to it.

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Two servings of pougi, the amuse bouche, arrived accompanied by pita bread, and were pounced upon once Chef Loi emptied the contents of the pouch into the serving bowl. It was as good if not better than it had been four days earlier.

If you eat nothing else, you have to try the scallops. Here, served as an appetizer, they are diver sea scallops, seared to perfection accompanied by lamb bacon (which is an incredible concept unto itself) and a parsnip puree. Another noteworthy appetizer is the moussaka. When people not familiar with moussaka ask me to explain what it is, I always say it’s similar to lasagna although not made with pasta. It’s made in layers of eggplant, ground beef, and Béchamel sauce (a white sauce, typically made from butter, flour, and milk; at Loi, however, which is butter free, the Béchamel is made using a different recipe ). Spetsofai, a ragout made with beef sausage (made in house), vegetables, and tomatoes, was also well received by our party, as was the roka, a salad that included arugula, candied figs, hazelnuts, and shaved kefalograviera cheese with fig-balsamic vinaigrette.

However, the chef was not quite done with us after all of those appetizers. We had only scratched the surface. Still to come were two large entrées to share between the four of us. Why two? “You have to save room for dessert,” she said with a sly wink.

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