I was fortunate enough to be invited for a press dinner at Thalassa, which just turned ten years old. The restaurant has been a staple of Tribeca, feeding diners seeking to experience Greek food culture without the expensive airfare. It starts when you walk through the doors. You feel transported to the deck of a boat, as the bar area is designed to feel like you’re sipping a cocktail while sailing through the Mediterranean Sea. The restaurant is elegant, whimsical
After being whisked to Greece, while still in lower Manhattan, our group was seated in the main dining area. The ceiling are high, the brick is exposed and the room is bright, bright without the feeling of lots of lights. In the corner sits legendary Greek guitar player Spiros Exaras. Exaras strums his guitar every Wednesday, which includes instrumental renditions of many classic rock songs. The music really fits in nicely with the mood and atmosphere of the restaurant.
The wine and cocktail list at Thalassa is quite extensive — the wine list in particular delves into many Greek classics and wines you probably wont find anywhere else. The menu mostly features seafood, but don’t despair if you don’t enjoy the treasures of the sea. There are a several dishes that feature meat as well as a vegetarian option. If you feel like just getting some drinks and snacks, there is a weekday happy hour from 5:30 until 7. You can enjoy 1/2-price on specialty cocktails and select Greek wines by the glass and a special Meze Menu.
While my overall meal wasn’t perfect, I was invited back again and things were much different — and much better. We also enjoyed a wine pairing with each course. Who knew that Greek wine was so good?
We were provided to start some nice warm bread and fresh hummus. It was rich and delicious, though I wish it was served with pita, like the following dips. A small bit size cod fritter followed. The fritter was not overly fishy and was warm and crispy. Another successful dish.
We shared eggplant and zucchini chips with tzatziki sauce and a five of Mediterranean dips. The eggplant and zucchini chips were came without any soggyness despite being served in and around a tzaziki sauce and fried saganaki graviera cheese. The tzaziki acted as a perfect dip. Chips and dips, I bet you can’t eat just one.
The first course that we were served was grilled octopus with micro greens, olive oil and red wine vinaigrette. The octopus was tender, which sadly, is not always the case. The picture below depicts the dish from my first visit. The second version of this dish was magnificent. The flavors complimented one another perfectly.
Next was Thalassa’s signature and most popular dish: Maine Diver Sea Scallops wrapped in filo with sheep’s milk butter and a kalmata olive balsamic reduction. While presented beautifully during my first visit, the scallop was overcooked and really lost in the nest of filo dough. During my second visit, however, the dish was stunning. The scallop was perfectly cooked, the dough did not overpower the scallop and the sauce was practically licked clean from my plate, minus the actual licking.
During my first visit, the ‘main’ course was a trio of fish (Picture below) which really left me a disappointed. Not the second time. We were served a completely deboned Mediterranean Lavarki (branzino). The fish came with potatoes and okra. The fish was cooked well and was beautifully seasoned. I’m not the biggest fan of okra, but if you are fan it was well prepared.
Upon my first visit, we were served seven different desserts. The standouts were the ravini, semolina cake with raspberry sauce, Ekmek Kataifi & Cream with Pistachios wrapped in Valrhona Choc olate Dome and panna cotta. This is odd for me, since I’m not a chocolate OR panna cotta fan. So maybe these were just that good. The second time we also had the panna cotta, and again, it was great.
My second experience at Thalassa was excellent. We were treated like kings and the food was fit for one. There was so much wine and food that it was almost overwhelming — in a good way. The standouts for me were the scallop dish, the eggplant and zucchini chips and the octopus. The branzino was also delicious. Whether you are looking to eat some high end, well prepared Greek style seafood, or just want some Greek wine and dessert, look no further than the heart of tribeca.