I would pass by Elias Corner frequently on the corner of 24th Ave and 31st Street in Astoria and thought it was just a regular corner restaurant. It looked well established, stocked with regulars, as I could make out peering through the glass each time I walked by. Nothing special. As I started to get to know the area a little better, I found out it was a restaurant (I knew that part), specifically for seafood (yeah, it practically yells on the restaurant signage “Elias Corner for FISH”), cooked the Greek way (so no, not raw ever), and has no formal menu. So interesting. So intriguing. Let me try.
And so I did with the friends that I rounded up to join me. It was a night to drown in bottles of wine with some delicious tasting fish. The sort of week I had, had me all wound up.
Entering through the door, you come across the market/miscellaneous portion of the business. On one side, it feels like an old school fish shop with a worn glass case of the selection of seafood offered for the day (Porgy, Red Snapper, Sea Bass, Striped Bass, Salmon, Oysters) and an old school cash register. Men behind the counter were preparing and cooking the fish. However, when you turn around, this is the miscellaneous portion of the room. Random tables and lost chairs not used for seating customers with boxes on them and wait, was there a filing cabinet somewhere in the room? The walls are covered with memorabilia, picture frames, and other things collected throughout the years. You look around for a few more long seconds confused as to what you walked into and where to go next until a nice server guides you back to the present and asks you, “How many for dinner?”.
The dining room is small, simple and quite blue themed, I guess for the ocean and to remind us where our food comes from. The walls are of a Santorini blue, blue Christmas lights hang around the perimeter of the room, even the base table cloths are blue. Big groups of families laugh and joke around their tables, sharing food family style, older Greek men laughing at jokes and sharing stories. There’s a very local vibe we were walking in on, but we weren’t intruding, no one noticed or batted an eye.
After a few minutes of being seated, the server came over and rattled off the menu from memory. Among the appetizers named were calamari, scallops, octopus, Greek sausage (first non-seafood item I heard of), Greek salad, etc. We chose the fried calamari, fried scallops, and Greek salad. Then, our server named the Main Courses. Some of the main courses were: Red Snapper, Salmon, Whiting, Black Sea Bass, Porgy, Branzino, etc. We chose the Red Snapper, Branzino, and the Sea Bass. And finally, the sides. There was lemon potatoes, broccoli, spinach, sliced and fried potatoes, etc. We chose the lemon potatoes, broccoli and the sliced and fried potatoes. Before our server left, we also ordered a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to wash all the food down. Elias Corner has a few choices of both red and wine as well as beers, so don’t think that if you go, you’ll have to choose between only the House Red or the House White. We settled on a bottle (that later became 2 bottles) of the 2012 Harlaftis, which is a Greek wine and full-bodied. Perfectttttt for a Friday night.
While we waited, a warm loaf of bread is served to the table, with a bottle of olive oil as its trusted companion. However, food generally comes out quick, so one slice of bread dipped in olive oil will do. I was expecting the Greek salad to be just a normal salad (how exciting can it be?). In appearance, the salad was pretty standard but the feta cheese sprinkled on top did not have the pungent and ripe taste that feta cheese would normally have. It was savory and creamy, in place of being pungent and sharp and didn’t have such a salty taste. My tongue didn’t immediately pull back as the feta introduced itself. The red onions didn’t have much of a strong taste either, my breath was saved.
The fried scallops and calamari were delivered together next. Usually when I order fried scallops and calamari anywhere else, there is a thick skin of batter suffocating the actual thing I ordered that leaves a residue of coating in my mouth. It took me off guard to look at what was actually on these two plates. I could see the scallops and calamari. Additionally, it is interesting that the chefs prefer to serve the squid’s tube shaped body intact instead of cut up in the familiar shape of an “O”. There was a very thin skin of batter around both the scallops and the head parts of the calamari and wasn’t crunchy at all. The tentacles were a little bit different but I didn’t get to taste any as the rest of the table were fighting over them. The scallops and calamari was probably flash fried as a result of the thin battered skin and I could taste more of the seafood than the batter itself. No tomato sauce or any fancy aioli were served, just simple lemon, salt and pepper.
Then came the three beautiful fish one by one. The Branzino. The Red Snapper. The Sea Bass. The Branzino was beautifully grilled with pockets of the skin blistered and broken. It sat in a pool of its juices waiting to be poked at and filleted the s*** out of (after pictures of course). The meat was mild, firm, but juicy. Switching to the Red Snapper, I think this was my favorite one out of all three. I don’t think anyone would agree with me though. I loved the color of it, as it provided some contrast, but once filleted, the fish was not only slightly less firm in my opinion to the branzino, but delicate, moist and lean. I did like the teeth that the Red Snapper had as it actually is the only fish on our table that had visible teeth, hence the explanation of its name. Lastly, the sea bass was the largest fish on our table but for all of its size, it was soft and flaky. In love. Similar taste to the other two, in terms of mildness and moisture, just the texture was a bit different.
From filling up on the appetizers and the fish, I had about 15% room in my stomach for the sides. The lemon potatoes is an Elias Corner signature dish and I think most people who order it, rave about it. The potatoes were cut into long sticks, and roasted with lemon and pepper. However, I thought they were too oily and greasy. What I liked better was the fried sliced potatoes that had a thin skin of batter on them. They weren’t as greasy and had a slight crunch to them when bitten into. They also tasted airy and light.
The broccoli was just broccoli, and that’s how I really feel about broccoli in general.
I wish I had some common sense to look at the bill but I was sort of tipsy and the most responsible person at the table told us what to pay each. I hope you can forgive me, dear reader. So, there were 5 of us, $55 per person with tip and tax included with fish priced somewhere between $25-$30. So, just to recap:
- 3 appetizers
- 3 kinds of fish
- 3 sides
- 2 bottles of wine
All in all, I bestow a Fork and Knive to Elias Corner.
P.S. Service isn’t the most attentive so just wave and someone will come right over.
P.S.S. No parking lot, but from experience the area has plenty of parking on the street. Just look around nearby streets and you’ll be fine.