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Dinner at Ithaka Restaurant, New York City; 12-29-2008 January 8, 2009

Posted by hslu in Restaurants, Travel.
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Dinner at Ithaka Restaurant, New York City; 12-29-2008

Ithaka is a little Greek restaurant about a mile away from my daughter and her husband’s apartment near York and 70th on the upper east side of Manhattan. We arrived at NY a little before 8:00 PM on Monday, 12-29-2008 after a one-night stay at Tropicana in Atlantic City. We picked up my daughter at her apartment and drove to Ithaka for a late dinner. Unfortunately her husband had to work and wasn’t able to join us. My son came home for the holidays from SF and went to Atlantic City with us. We were quite conscious with how much we could lose. We left Tropicana with about $300 loss, mostly on penny slots.

The night sky was cloudy and wind had started since late afternoon. I dropped them off at the front door and drove around to look for street parking. After a short drive, I found a good spot just a half block away. I put all my quarters in the meter but it only gave me 45 minutes. I didn’t want to park in a garage because it easily could cost me $36 for 2 hours: ~$24 for parking, $8.50 surcharge for my SUV plus $6 tax. It was that expensive in NY especially during the day when street parking was almost impossible to find. I had to feed the meter during my dinner and it was pain in the neck to come out in the cold.

The restaurant was small: about 20′ wide and 50′ deep divided into two sections with fewer than 20 tables. It was almost empty when I came in: there were 2 other tables in addition to ours. Our table was in the back section and as soon as I sat down our waiter greeted me and asked me if he could give me some thing to drink. I opened the wine menu and wanted to order something light and fruity for our dinner. However, most wines in the menu were from Greece which I have no knowledge at all. I asked our waiter to help and he suggested a white table wine from the Drama region in Northern Greece. The Amethystos wine was produced by Domain Costa Lazaridi with beautiful art work on the bottle. I later found out that the word “Amethystos” literally means “not intoxicated” because the ancient Greeks thought that if you hold an amethyst gem in your hand while drinking wines, you would not get drunk. The dry wine was quite pleasant on the palate with bouquet of fruits I wasn’t able to identify. The low alcohol content (12.5%) made it very easy to drink even for Maria and my daughter. The $36 price tag was definitely better than I expected for a restaurant in upper east Manhattan.

amethystos-greek-wine_edited

We order one cold and one hot appetizer to share and three entrees:

Tzatziki:                     Yogurt, cucumber, dill and garlic; my daughter’s favor dish. ($7)

Kalamarkia                  Pan-fried baby squid. ($10.50)

Thalasino Youvetsi     Shrimp, scallop, calamari and mussels with orzo pasta in fresh tomato sauce and feta cheese ($28).

Swordfish Souvlaki     Boiled swordfish, onion and pepper skew ($28).

Psari Plaki                   Fresh snapper baked with feta cheese, tomato sauce, herbs, onions and garlic. ($23)

I didn’t order any soup because it was $7 which was more than what I could get from a French restaurant.

Tzatziki was such a simple dish to make that it was surprisingly good to the last bite. We couldn’t get enough pita bread to soak up every bit of yogurt. Pan-fried calamari was a disappointment. It came out with some kind of white creamy dressing on top. The calamari was lightly breaded than stir-fired with spices. I thought it needed more seasoning. The dressing was bland and none of us liked it. Calamari was chewy unlike the deep-fired version which we like because of its crispiness.  Before our entrees came out, I went to the front of the restaurant and asked for some change to feed the meter. The hostess had warned me that New York parking patrol is notoriously bad. I guessed I had no choice but to feed the meter with two more dollars. Well, it beat spending $35 to park in a garage for 2 hours.

The swordfish Souvlaki was okay. The fish was fresh but the meat was a bit tough for my taste. It was probably over cooked. Psari Plaki was tender with good taste. The best entrée was mine: Thalasino Youvetsi. When I ordered the dish, our waiter told us that it would take 25 minutes to make. I thought that if it took that long to make it must be good. It came out in a ceramic pot about 10″ in diameter and 4″ deep. It had a generous portion of seafood: a couple of jumbo shrimps, big scallops, some calamari and a few mussels. The best part was the orzo pasta. It was cooked al dente and was soaked in the thick burgundy-colored sauce. We like it a lot and finished them all easily.

By the time we finished our dinner, the restaurant was about to close for the night. The waiters had already done their side jobs and the hostess was getting ready to go home. Our waiter said that we could stay as long as we like but it was getting late. I decided not to order any dessert but tried some Greece coffee ($3.50) instead. The coffee came out quickly in espresso size cup. It was dark and strong with good aroma but the bottom 1/5 was filled with coffee grounds. Although the waiter had warned me before I placed the order, I still swallowed some coffee grounds with my coffee. Even without the coffee ground, I don’t think I will order their coffee next time. It wasn’t as good as the espresso I had in other Mediterranean restaurants.

We left the restaurant at 10:30 PM and the total bill came to $181.18 including $30 tips.

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