There’s something beautifully simplistic when fresh food is grilled over an open flame. The very primal action of food on fire results in a scent that stirs the appetite, no wonder in the Old Testament even God calls this “An aroma pleasing to the Lord.”
Telly’s Taverna puts fire and fresh seafood right on display as soon as you step into the restaurant. On the left side is a clear refrigerator showcasing the seafood, and behind it a chef manning a large grill. The space looks slightly dated, proudly showing the 20+ year heritage. Newcomers into the neighborhood like Michael Psilakis might have a glitzier space with his Astoria outpost of MP Taverna, but Dianna from Telly’s said the local Greek diners still look to restaurants like Telly’s for authentic cuisine. Looking at the predominantly Greek folks in the dining room, I agree.
Open the menu and you’ll see that the menu is actually written in Greek. Luckily across the page there’s a corresponding English version. Most items are grilled, so there’re precious little description, just the main protein.
For appetizers, the first item on the menu seemed to be what every table was ordering. The octopus was charred, cut into smaller pieces table side, and served soaking in olive oil and acidic lemon juices. This was one of the most tender octopus tentacles I’ve ever tasted, and the char against the citrus was a fantastic combination.
Lima beans baked in light tomato sauce might have been a bit filling for an appetizer, and it came in very generous serving size. The flavors of the plate was very delicate, with tomato flavor that was well balanced and doesn’t dominate the other ingredients.
Greek salad puts together a few key distinctly Greek ingredients, namely Feta Cheese and Olives, and mixes it with tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. A very refreshing option after the other heavier choices.
For mains, the whole roasted Branzini is served whole or de-boned. Either way it’s lightly seasoned, charred, and plated with lemon on the side. The fish is fresh, moist, and simple. A good way to enjoy fish without extra frills.
Jumbo shrimp was just as simple, the shrimp is butterflied and grilled lightly with lemons. The natural flavors were delicious, but the seasoning was a bit on the lighter side. I also struggled to take the meat off the very charred shells.
Loukoumades, or tiny fried doughnut holes, are on the house everyday except Saturday. They’re fresh, warm, and coated with honey. Although you’re likely very full at this point, they’re simply delicious.
Telly’s delivers an enjoyable meal that’s simple, and should not be missed by anyone who enjoys charred seafood, especially the octopus. 20 years ago there were lines the stretched around the block. Today while there’s not much innovation, the classics are still strong and is worth a visit.
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Disclosure: The meal was compliments of the restaurant, although it did not affect my opinion nor was I required to write.
2813 23rd Ave
Astoria, NY 11105