Monday, May 23, 2005

The Real Astorian Catch

Elia's Fish Corner
Originally uploaded by jggrossm.
I guess that when a flashy, painfully overpriced, pretentious, and overall crappy restaurant opens up in the neighb, you have to wonder, what is happening to Astoria?

Well, I'm happy to inform you that real Astorian food is still kicking, or in this case, flapping, in full force.

I'd heard rumblings about Elia's Fish Corner now and then, but nobody is *talking* about this place. Not in English anyway. But On Friday night Steve and I had a hankering for some serious seafood.

Elia's Fish Corner has a modest blue awning under the "el" on 24th Avenue. The queue was right up to the door and it was a bit chilly out, but when we came in, people scooted up for us. Wait staff were shuttling between the impressive fish case in front of us and the busy dining rooms ahead. The kitchen is right behind the case for all to bear witness to the expertly simple treatment of the fish. This room is decorated with Wally the talking Walleye and various greco-maritime paraphernalia. The others in line seemed to have little spatial awareness. The host knew everyone there and was busy shaking their hands and asking about their families. He gave us a reassuring nod all the same.

When seated, a lovely young waiter who was busy yet patient, greeted us and asked in perfect English "do you know the menu?". We didn't. He listed off for us exactly what the restaurant had to offer. It was essentially a list of seafoods and some Greek specialties.

We shared the carafe of the house's white wine, which was *very* good given the price. I have little experience with Greek wine and this white tasted almost red in body, yet had a firm white balance and a refreshing quality. It was about four glasses worth for $8. An unbelievable bargain.

The raw clams were perfect raw clams. Not much to be said there. The Greek salad was the best I've ever had. How can a Greek salad be unique you ask? The oil and vinegar were flavorful, the feta cheese, creamy, the vegetables were abundant, and not too much lettuce.

While we enjoyed our food, a couple men sat next to us, joking with each other in Greek. They ordered tons of small plates each looking more fabulous than the next. We were jealous that we'd skipped the sausage and octopus.

The whole black bass ($16) that the waiter recommended we share was as long as the table. We ate if off the bone. It was moist and fresh. The "side" of potatoes was huge - essentially homemade potato chips, but not greasy - a perfect compliment.

Our in-the-know neighbors left behind a few glistening, untouched sausages that couldn't be missed and within a few moments, Yoink! The next table snatched up the plate for themselves. They were hysterical with laughter, the dominant mood of the room.

Fortunately Elia's doesn't serve dessert, because we didn't have room for it.

Don't forget, there is no menu so we had no idea what kind of damage we had done. The bill was $48 - for wine, starters, entree and side for two.

Cheap eats. Classic Queens. Perfect for groups. Worth the wait.


Anonymous said...

Oooh... I am SO there! This is just the kind of place I want when I have seafood cravings. (as you said, "screw Baru")

I love that they serve up the whole fish. Many people are put off by having to be "confronted" with the creature they're eating, which I think is silly. Throw the sucker on the grill & put it on my plate-- I'll take it! :-)

Anonymous said...

Its morning and I haven't had breakfast yet. So why do I an urge to ride out to Tampa, jump on airplane and fly to Laguardia. Then catch the first cab to Astoria. Maybe I can make it by late lunch.