As the saying goes about New York, “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Therefore one would think that once a chef establishes his name in the New York dining scene, the rest of the world will embrace his cooking with open arms.
Sadly this hasn’t been the case. Just moving across the river and into the suburbs proves to be a challenging transition. Instead of dealing with the over indulged palates of Manhattanites, diners out in Long Island might want bigger portions, fusion, more recognizable ingredients. Many of these requirements make me cringe, let along a NYC chef.
Last June, I visited MP Taverna in Roslyn, hoping it would be a chance to enjoy Michael Psilakis’s cuisine in a more relaxed atmosphere. It turned out to be a complete letdown. Confusion in the style of cuisine, and service that was outmatched. Interestingly roughly a year from that date, I was invited to experience fine Greek cuisine from one of chef Psilakis’ understudies Constantine Kalandranis. My excitement however was quickly hampered by the location: Whitestone. Would this be a neighborhood restaurant, or does it strive to be more?
eXo takes full advantage of the location by offering a proper courtyard, where diners can dine under the shade of a beautiful fig tree. The inside of the restaurant felt comfortable as well, with warm colors and simple rustic decor. I was very much amused by a mural at the end of the restaurant depicting a street scene, which was drawn by one of the owner’s friends. On the corner of that painting, a Yanni look-alike musician. A Greek Easter egg tribute?
The meal started with a statement, that this was serious food despite its northern Queens location. Oysters served two ways: on the half shell with sliced radish and cucumbers, and fried with a nice spicy sauce. These were such beautifully shucked and fried oysters, perfectly plump and flavorful.
Paired with the rest the of meal was a bottle of Malbec called 505 from Mendoza. I was quite impressed by the rich, intense flavors for a wine so young (2011).
Next up the saganaki is a simple, yet well executed piece of grilled cheese in olive oil. It’s quite salty, so a portion to share would be ideal. Trying to finish an entire serving would be a lot of sodium.
The first of the entree sized dishes captures all of the prevailing dining trends, though it’s only possible during certain seasons. Scallops paired with free picked figs straight from the garden, talk about seasonal and local! The pairing was absolutely phenomenal, with the gentle tartness balancing out the smoky grilled flavors. The scallops themselves are beautifully cooked, perfectly tender.
Hanger steak and asparagus was solid, though lacked the creativity of the previous dish. The meat was tender for the cut, but didn’t have as much flavor as I hoped for.
With a very competent Greek menu, outdoor seating, full bar, and convenient access for Queens residents (right off the Van Wyck), eXo has what it takes to be successful. Though it’s not quite destination dining, next time you’re in the Flushing area, this is worth the short drive north.
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From the Notebook: The meal was complementary, though this fact did not affect my opinion nor were we required to write. If you do not know who Yanni is, Google him, he is legend.
1516 149th St
Whitestone, NY 11357