Entries in Thalassa (4)

Friday
Dec212012

Thalassa

It almost felt like cheating to accept a publicist’s invitation to re-visit Thalassa, my favorite restaurant that no one writes about. I’ve reviewed it twice before (here, here), and visited at least two other times that I didn’t write about. The week after the publicist-arranged visit, I went on my own dime and spent almost $600 (albeit with a number of extra courses sent out).

Like many restaurants, Thalassa re-calibrated after the financial crisis. The “fish by the pound” program, which could seem daunting and confusing to customers, has been dropped. In 2006, I wrote that there were “many” fish entrées over $40. There’s now just one, the Dover Sole ($48), which is excellent. The staff no longer sends you home with a pastry for the next day’s breakfast.

The restaurant remains expensive, with appetizers $14–25 and entrées $29–47 (only one less than $32). But over six or more visits, across ten years, I’ve never had anything less than excellent. The space is refined, quiet, and comfortable—perfect for a business dinner or a romantic night out. I’ve used it for both.

The international wine list is outstanding, with over 12,000 bottles and more than 700 labels, but a list that strong ought to be available online—and it isn’t.

The account below is primarily of the publicist-arranged meal, as my visit the following week was a business event not suited to taking photos.

  

Both meals began with a light cod fritter (above left), served as an amuse. Zuchchini–Eggplant chips ($24; above center), are wonderful: incredibly light and not at all oily. However, it’s only a practical dish if several people are there to share it. There’s an assortment of dips ($10; above right) for spreading on house-made pita.

 

Octopodi ($25; above left) had a terrific, smoky flavor, served with a salad of sun-dried tomato, micro-organic greens, olive oil, and red wine vinaigrette.

Scallops ($22; above right) are a revelation, wrapped in filo dough, served with sheep’s milk butter and a balsamic reduction. I’ve had this dish before: it’s no wonder that it remains on the menu.

All of the whole fish are served basically the same way: lightly char-grilled, with a sprinkling of lemon and olive oil. The photo above is the Lavraki ($36), which appears as Branzino or Loup de Mer on some menus. The Dover Sole, the following week, was similar. The kitchen lets the quality of the ingredients speak for itself, with a minimum of interference.

  

 

The kitchen sent out practically the whole dessert menu (all $12). You won’t go wrong here, but my favorite was the Galaktobouriko–Citrus Custard layered in Filo and drizzled with honey (second row, left).

At ten years old, Thalassa is entering middle age by restaurant standards. It has survived and thrived, which is a tribute to good management. The dining room was not full for either of my mid-week visits, but there is always steady business. Thalassa is a shade less expensive than it used to be, but the quality of the food has not suffered, and the wine list is still first-rate.

I love Thalassa and always did. That none of the city’s professional critics reviewed it always puzzled me. Perhaps now, on its tenth anniversary, they’ll take a fresh look. Thalassa deserves it.

Thalassa (179 Franklin Street between Greenwich and Hudson Streets, TriBeCa)

Food: Greek, primarily seafood
Service: Elegant but understated
Ambiance: A quiet, serene room, reminiscent of the sea

Rating: Category Killer
Why? Thalassa has never been less than excellent, over 6+ visits 

Wednesday
Dec132006

Thalassa

Note: Click here for a more recent review of Thalassa.

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thalassa.jpgWhat’s the best restaurant in Manhattan that has never had a rated review from the Times? My vote goes to Thalassa, which carries three stars on this website. I’ve eaten there four times—enough to be sure that the strong impression it left with me wasn’t just a flash in the pan. The line between two and three stars may be fairly debated, but with the less-impressive Periyali carrying two stars from the Times (and that a recent assessment, per Bruni), my three for Thalassa doesn’t seem unreasonable.

I had another excellent dinner at Thalassa this week. Maine Diver Scallops came wrapped in kataifi with sheep’s, milk butter and a balsamic reduction. A black cod dish marked the first time I’ve had that fish without miso paste, and I’m happy to say that cod doesn’t need any accompaniments when it’s as delicately prepared as it was here.

With most fish entrees over $30, and many over $40, the bill can mount in a hurry, but this is one of the better seafood restaurants in the city. It is also an attractive and refined space, and service is excellent. I dined with four colleagues who, like many people, had never heard of Thalassa. Now, they’re all fans.

Thalassa (179 Franklin Street between Greenwich and Hudson Streets, TriBeCa)

Food: ***
Service: ***
Ambiance: ***
Overall: ***

Sunday
Jun132004

Thalassa: Greek Seafood in TriBeCa

Note: Click here for a more recent review of Thalassa.

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Thalassa is a Greek seafood restaurant. The Hellenic influence is on display everywhere, but with fish imported daily from all over the Mediterranean, you can think of Thalassa as simply a very fine seafood restaurant.

Thalassa means “the sea” in Greek. The letter theta is everywhere, from the china, to the banner outside, to even the doggie bags. The design radiates cool blues, making Thalassa a most soothing place. Billowing fabric covers the exposed brick walls. Perhaps it is meant to suggest sailing ships, but it also absorbs the sound, making Thalassa a place of calm, even when it is full.

Our party of 3 shared a starter of calamari. We’re all used to strings of calamari, breaded and immersed in the deep fryer. This dish was totally unexpected. The calamari was wrapped in the shape of a sausage around stuffing of feta cheese, parsley and pine nuts. We were simply amazed.

Thalassa’s menu offers a number of standard entrées, as well as a whole page of fish by the pound, which varies depending on what’s available. The restaurant recommends one pound of fish per person, but you have to order a whole fish, and not every selection is available at every weight. You’re dependent on your server to explain all this, and our server had a bit of trouble getting it across.

In the end, my friend and I settled for a two-pound sea bass, which we shared. A pound of fish sounds like a lot, but remember this is the uncooked weight. After the head is removed and the fish de-boned, this turns out to be just the right portion size. It was a nice flakey fish with a rich taste. The fish-by-the-pound selections don’t come with anything else, so we ordered a side of asparagus to go along with it.

My mother chose one of the standard entrées, Snapper Spetsiota, which is described as “oven-baked in a clay vessel with tomatoes, onions, fresh oregano and white wine.” This turned out to be a very large portion, which she enjoyed immensely, but she had half of it wrapped up to take home for tonight’s supper.

Thalassa boasts a long and varied wine list. We settled on a modestly-priced but obscure cabernet, which was such a hit that we asked the staff to give us the label, so that we can buy ourselves some more. (Yes, I know: red wine with fish … do forgive us!)

We passed on dessert, but at the end of the meal we were each presented with a silver box with the familiar letter theta printed on it. Inside was a sugary pastry puff to send us on our way. All evening long, service was superlative. It’s a big town, but at least from my own experience, Thalassa is the best restaurant in town that has never had a rated review from the New York Times. Two subsequent visits have confirmed my extremely favorable impression of this restaurant.

Appetizers at Thalassa are $8-18, mains are $24-36. The market fish selections available last night were at $26-45 per pound, with most in the $26-32 range.

Thalassa (179 Franklin Street between Greenwich & Hudson Streets, TriBeCa)

Food: ***
Service: ***
Ambiance: ***
Overall: ***

Thursday
Apr082004

Fish by the Pound

Note: For a subsequent review of Thalassa, click here.

In Steve Cuozzo’s Menus from Hell piece in yesterday’s Post, he reserved the bulk of his criticism for Megu (cited below) and Mix in New York. But he also mentioned that “Manhattan’s modern Greek seafood places make you order fish by the pound; miscalculate and you’ll go broke on enough livraki to feed the whole room.”

I wondered where on earth that could be, but sure enough I wandered yesterday into Thalassa. Sure enough, its pricey entrees are listed by the pound. I didn’t stay for supper, but I was sufficiently intrigued to take a tour.

Now, Cuozzo’s exaggerating when he says that you could order enough to feed the whole room by mistake, but he nevertheless has a point. Precisely how much Dover Sole are you getting, and how much will it set you back, when you choose that entree?

Thalassa is yet another suave, chic, designed-to-the-hilt newcomer in TriBeCa. Coincidentally, two colleagues were there yesterday sharing pre-dinner drinks and munchies, and they urged me to check out the raw fish on ice, “so fresh, they wink at you.” I was startled when a prawn wiggled its legs. The lobster didn’t seem to move, but the maitre d’ assured me they’re just sleeping. As the real dinner crowd hadn’t arrived yet, he was only too happy to show me around the place and explain every fish on offer that day.

Thalassa has been open fifteen months, but it has yet to earn a mention from the Paper of Record.

Thalassa (179 Franklin Street between Greenwich and Hudson Streets, TriBeCa)