Athens Tavern: Open or Closed?Athens Tavern? Does the name ring a bell? It opened less than a year ago to much hype, considered a potential rival to Anthos as the city’s most ambitious Greek restaurant. Chef Yiannis Baxevanis was the only Michelin-starred Greek chef not named Michael Psilakis, and the only one who actually had a restaurant in Greece. A Queens tipster reports that the restaurant has been closed a week, but owner Nikos Gregoriou insists that Athens Tavern is shuttered only temporarily while a new dishwasher is installed. “We will be open in a week,” he says. “We just had to change some machinery.” But our neighborhood source says neither the staff nor the vendors have been paid recently, and that there is major strife between Gregoriou and his partner. Moreover, Baxevanis appears to have left: He’s currently working at a restaurant in Dubai. Gregoriou confirms that Baxevanis is gone (and has been replaced with an unnamed “lady”) but was indignant when asked about owing staff and vendors money: “You come in and eat dinner with me next week, and then you can ask me those questions.”
Back of the House
Persephone’s Seafood Yiouvetsi Seems Awfully Familiar…
We knew something looked vaguely familiar when we saw, in this week’s magazine’s Openings, the image of Persephone’s dish of seafood yiouvetsi. Oh, that’s right — seafood yiouvetsi is a signature dish at Anthos! The only difference is that this one doesn’t come in the actual yiouvetsi pot. But everything else seems to be there, down to the orzo in a saffron broth at the bottom. They say there’s nothing new under the sun, but Anthos’s yiouvetsi was pretty novel when it came out, as the dish is traditionally reserved for lamb shanks and the like. Deepening our suspicions of Persephone’s, um, inspiration is the fact that the other dishes mentioned at Persephone — the pikilia-spread sampler, the Greek meatballs in tomato sauce — are right off the menu of Anthos’s sister Kefi. Of course, given how crowded Anthos and Kefi are, the chance to eat simulacra in another good restaurant is much welcome. But otherwise, this might be one of the most brazen Greek heists since Lord Elgin looted the Parthenon marbles.
Openings: Persephone, Greene Grape Provisions, Dean’s, ’Beca Restaurant, Dram Shop, and City Girl Café [NYM]
Back of the House
Memo to World: Michael Symon and Michael Psilakis Are Not the Same Person
We ran into Michael Symon last week, a.k.a. the Next Iron Chef; as food celebs we meet are wont to do, he said that he hoped what he told us wouldn’t end up on Grub Street the next day. Jokingly, we suggested that we’d just write about how we ran into Anthos chef Michael Psilakis. “That happens to me all the time,” Symon, said, laughing. You can’t blame people for getting confused: Both men are high-profile, thirtysomething Greek (or part-Greek) chefs named Michael who are bald and happened to open up ambitious Greek restaurants at around the same time. There is, however, one clear difference between the two: Psilakis has a chinbeard, and Symon a soul patch. But this seemed cold comfort to Symon last night. Having frequently been accused of being Terrance Brennan’s doppelgänger, we could sympathize. Now if only we could switch bank accounts.
Psilakis Isn’t the Only Chef Who Knows GreekMichael Psilakis’s Michelin star (and other honors) is raising the profile of Greek cooking in New York, but other restaurants are looking to catch up. Ethos, a big, popular place in both its Manhattan and Astoria locations, is getting a classically trained new chef who vows to take the places to the next level. (A third Ethos, meanwhile, is slated to open in Great Neck at the end of the month.)
End of the Line for Ureña; Rocco Admits Douche-baggeryAlex Ureña is closing Ureña and turning it into “a bistro-style eater called Pamplona.” The modern Spanish curse continues! Now Suba alone carries the banner. [Eater]
Rocco DiSpirito doesn’t seem to mind being called a douche bag: “I was thinking he must have worked for me to know I’m a douche bag,” the chef tells Nina Lalli. [VV]
Related: Joey, Latest ‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner, on Why Rocco Is a Douche Bag
On his Top Chef blog Tony Bourdain has some wise words to console Joey: “Joey’s the chef of a damn famous restaurant in New York freakin’ City. The place every ambitious cook and chef hopes to work — in the big leagues. So he’s already a “Top Chef” — and already a winner in my book.” [Bravo]
Related: Adam Platt Finds the Moral in Last Night’s ‘Top Chef’
Fish, Dancing, Outdoor Seating: Athena Comes to Astoria!You sometimes hear that Astoria, or at least Greek Astoria, is played out, but somebody forgot to tell Athena, a big and ambitious new restaurant which just opened up there. Owned by Christos Christou, former executive chef and partner at Ammos Estiatorio in Manhattan, the place will feature regional Greek cookery, with some Macedonian and Cypriot dishes added in for good measure. For the most part, that means lovingly prepared seafood imported directly from Greece — check out the menu and see for yourself. On Fridays and Saturdays, there will be live Greek music and dancing, and come summer, plenty of outdoor seating. Greek Astoria: Still good times.
Athena dinner menu [Menus]
Psilakis, Pretty Much a Greek God, Has Another OpeningMichael Psilakis’s ambitious new restaurant, Anthos, opens Monday in the old Acqua Pazza space. It’s been a busy, up-and-down year for the chef: His critically praised Dona closed, unexpectedly, one week into 2007. Just a couple of weeks later, he converted his high Greek eatery Onera into the more casual Kefi, which went on, in this week’s issue, to win four stars from the Underground Gourmet. The wheel in the sky keeps on turning, as they say. Looks like it’s lifting Psilakis back up. We went inside Anthos and got all the evidence.
Psilakis Casting Aside Intellect and Technique
In the wake of Dona’s demise, Michael Psilakis is a man with a major challenge. He has two restaurants that currently only exist on a theoretical plane, and one actual restaurant, the Upper West Side’s Onera, that is underperforming. So as part of a grand retrenching and expansion effort, Psilakis has reconceived Onera as Kefi, a family-style neighborhood eatery. It’s a good idea. The neighborhood’s residents weren’t primed for Psilakis’s challenging food (his most memorable effort there was a multicourse offal tasting menu); nor, to be fair, was the room worthy. Psilakis, though, claims that Kefi’s more casual cooking has other benefits as well.
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Reindeer Sausage, Hungry-Man Happy Hours, and a Word From DJ BubblesWhether you’re hungry at six in the p.m. or five in the a.m., this week’s serving of service journalism has you covered.
• Cheapo champ Meehan’s late-night dining findings. [NYT]
• Time Out does brunch. [TONY]
• Hungry-man happy hours. [Thrillist]
• Sietsema’s best-of picks: Fried backbone, reindeer sausage, and “weird wobbly yellow stuff.” [VV]
• Greek grub in Astoria. [NYT]
• “Definitive pizzameister” DJ Bubbles’ top-ten list. [Slice]