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Korali Estiatorio
Credit: Korali Estiatorio

Korali Estiatorio offers a wonderful selection of traditional Greek fare inspired by recipes from owner Gregori Politis’ boyhood home on Lefkada.  Ranging from meze that are perfect for sharing as a starter, to traditional greek salads, and even whole Rooster and Goat (available for pre-order) Korali Estiatorio provides an authentic Greek experience to those who seek it.

Korali Estiatorio
Credit: Korali Estiatorio

I was greeted by Gregori, and he explained how his childhood shaped the menu at Korali Estiatorio and how he wanted people to have access to that food.  People come from all over the city to get a taste of Lefkada.  The decor is white and sunny, and very spacious.  Designed by Yianni Skordas, it evokes the Mediterranean Islands with a light, breezy feel, and Old World music transport the guests to a relaxing hideaway, free from the bustle of Manhattan.

Gregori treated us like family, but that wasn’t just an exclusive perk extended to our table.  He made his way through the restaurant, welcoming all of the diners and assuring everyone felt at home.

Korali Estiatorio
Credit: J. Benjamin Ryan

We began our meal with a traditional Horiatiki salad of vine ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, peppers, kalamata olives, capers, oregano, and aged feta, dressed with extra virgin olive oil.  I thought, “Hey, this will be a good, simple, start,” but “simple” it was not.  The flavors melded perfectly, and the large bites of veg, covered in the superior oil, were full of flavor and delightful.  The feta, rather than punctuating the salad, was smooth and creamy and provided a beautiful undertone to the flavors of the olives and the capers.  I would definitely try this out if you plan to visit.

Our Horiatiki was accompanied by the Wishes White, a blend of Assyrtiko, Malagousia and Chardonnay.  It had a light, dry and crispy taste to it that went well with the crispness of the vegetables in the salad.  I would even describe the finish of the wine as maritime, adding the the oceanic overtone of the menu.

Korali Estiatorio
Credit: J. Benjamin Ryan

Following the salad, I jumped into the Kolokythokeftedes, or Zucchini Croquettes, which were lightly fried and served along the house Tzatziki.  Delicious, hot, little cakes that were smooth and creamy from the same feta we had before, melted inside the croquette, were cooled and supported by the cooling yogurt and cucumber dip.  These were perfect with the regular menu’s Grilled Mediterranean Octopus.

Korali Estiatorio
Credit: Korali Estiatorio

The Grilled Mediterranean Octopus was a truly spectacular dish.  The sashimi grade octopus, char-grilled and served atop a Greek fava puree with saffron lemon oil, cherry tomatoes, scallions and capers, was perfectly prepared.  Smoky and crisp, the octopus was perfect in texture and the creamy blanket of puree it was nestled in provided a delightful contrast to the flavor.  I especially liked the way the char from the grilling played with the flavor of the saffron.

Credit: J. Benjamin Ryan
Credit: J. Benjamin Ryan

Feeling adventurous, I decided to try another special that night, the Grilled Whole Sardines.  These were amazing.  Full of flavor, this fish that I usually find oily and pungent, seemed lighter and was full of delightful flavor.  The meaty fish were dressed with parsley and lemon and had a nice crispy skin that made the texture even more pleasant.  The Red Wishes, another Greek blend, this time of Xinomavro, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, balanced perfectly with the sardines.

Korali Estiatorio
Credit: J. Benjamin Ryan

I always like to end with dessert, and being that Korali Estiatorio is a traditional Greek restaurant, I decided to go with something familiar.  The Baklava.  I have this all the time when I am out at diner’s across the city.  It is one of my favorite desserts.  This Baklava was exceptional.  Packed full of nuts and super dense, this gives you more bang for your buck than you would expect from the dessert.  It was sweet and sticky and nutty and perfect.  Accompanied by a plate of watermelon slices, I wondered why we would desire the fruit with our pastry.  It provided balance.  Between rich bites of flaky, gooey goodness, you need to cleanse your palate a bit.  This is also helped by a glass of the Samos Muscat, with its notes of ocean, cool grapes, sunshine and maybe even a whisper of oregano at the end.

Korali Estiatorio was really delightful to visit and should be a must for any fan of traditional Greek fare.  They are located at 1662 3rd Avenue, at East 93rd Street, and can be reached at (646) 964-5470.  Their menu can be viewed at www.KoraliNYC.com.  The restaurant is open Monday and Tuesday from 5pm-11pm, Wednesday-Friday from 12pm-11pm, and Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner from 12pm-11pm.  They are available for private events, takeout, and delivery.