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Let’s Go Greek Tonight – Avra, was my restaurant choice for Marvelous Mondays with Vince. Located at 48th Street between Lex & 3rd Aves., this authentic Greek favorite is popular among the midtown business crowd. As written in Zagats, “The freshest catch grilled to perfection is served with panache at this Mykonos-like Hellenic seafooder.”

As you enter the restaurant passing the outdoor seating, you immediately feel like you are at a villa in Greece. The atmosphere is cozy, Mediterranean in style with limestone and wood distressed floors, stone washed walls, exposed wood beams and a beautiful courtyard adorned with colorful flowers. In the back, you can marvel at the open kitchen and the amazing fresh fish display, which includes Mediterranean specialties such as Barbounia, Lithrini and Fagri, along side the Red Snapper, Dover Sole, Lobsters and much more. Fresh red tomatoes, green peppers and other delectable produce is displayed for the diner’s delight.

Greece, particularly the islands of Santorini and Mykonos are a popular travel destination for all ages. Whether it’s the beautiful country, the history, the warm and festive people or the wonderful cuisine, Greece touches the heart and soul of its visitors. When you get to go to Greece, you will be served whole fish with the head still on. Octopus will be drying in the sun outside of a taverna while the tables of Greeks dining beside you are enjoying sardines and fresh anchovies.

You will find in Greece and at authentic Greek restaurants at home, a popular dish on the menu is grilled octopus. Avra served it well, with vidalia onions, capers and lightly dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and a hint of freshly squeezed lemon. The key as I was told by my waiter, is the tenderizing of the octopus before grilling. On the Greek Islands, you will see fisherman beating the octopus on the concrete pier, to tenderize the fish. When cleaning the octopus, you will notice that they remove the beak, eyes and internal organs and then hang it out (literally on a clothesline) to dry in the hot Greek sun. The moisture is drawn out of the octopus, which makes it ideal for grilling.

Back to Avra. The basket of bread on the table was rustic style, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. It complemented the tasty olive oil, hummus, olives and radishes. After sharing the grilled octopus, Vince enjoyed the Arctic Char, which was served with steamed wild mountain greens. I ordered one of my favorite fish dishes, grilled halibut with a nice side of tasty spinach. Both of us thoroughly enjoyed our grilled and lightly dressed fresh fish. Arctic Char is pink in color and has characteristics of salmon and lake trout. It has a delicate texture and mild flavor and was perfectly prepared. My halibut was wonderful, dense and firm in texture with a clean taste. Halibut is a high quality fish that requires little seasoning and Avra did a great job with it. Delizioso!

Halibut over spinach

Grilled Octopus

Janetta’s rating: 9 for Food, 7.5 for service, 8.5 for atmosphere. Overall rating: 8.5. I highly recommend this Greek favorite!

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