33-07 Ditmars Boulevard
(between 33rd & 35th Streets)
Astoria, NY 11105
It really doesn’t get much better than the Greek culture and people. So warm and welcoming, with such delicious food, and customs and traditions that just make you smile. For those of us lucky enough to have visited this amazing country, we all know how desperately we long to return and taste this spectacular food again.
In a city where most nations are well represented, those of us homesick for the magic of this Mediterranean land can take solace in knowing that there’s a community that’s as close to being in Greece as you can get without booking a flight. To get your fix for the finest seafoods, spreads and salads, head straight to Astoria, Queens.
In this Aegean mecca, one restaurant shines brighter than the rest. Taverna Kyclades is a modest seafood restaurant serving anything but modest food. It’s reasonably priced, incredibly fresh, and the place to go if you’re longing for the intoxicating flavors of Greece.
While the timing of this review may make you sulk over the waning warmth of summer, Taverna Kyclades’ sidewalk seating is the perfect place to soak in the final rays of the season. If you close your eyes, throw your head back and take in the smells, you might momentarily convince yourself that you’re not sitting on the side of Ditmars Blvd in Queens.
The quaint dining room inside is an option for the colder months. No reason not to enjoy this amazing food all year round.
To kick things off, the restaurant’s complimentary toasted baguette bathed in a rich Greek olive oil. You’ll need to order some of the stellar spreads to dip this bread in.
Our selection, the restaurant’s incredible taramosalata. Made up of salty and briny cod row, whipped into a creamy spread, this was the perfect way to begin our meal. Taramosalata may not be for everyone, there is a discernable fishy finish that caps off each bite, but if you like this dip, you won’t find a better rendition than that at Taverna Kyclades.
All of the dips and spreads come with warm, toasted pita wedges.
Next up, the Greek Salad.
Crispy lettuce, bright red tomatoes, sliced red onions, kalamata olives, and an obscene block of salty feta, all made for the building blocks of this fresh starter. Not to mention the crunchiest and most flavorful cucumbers we’ve tasted in quite some time. A nice garnish of peperoncini peppers finished off the salad.
Overall this was a delicious arrangement of one of this cuisine’s best known dishes, save for the quantity of red onions. They were definitely a bit overpowering, we were literally digging through red onions to get to the rest of the ingredients. The chef’s could have used a bit of restraint when assembling this mix, but our mouths were too full to gripe.
The Peasant Salad is another excellent option. It utilizes many of the same ingredients as the Greek salad, minus the lettuce.
Next up, the most implausibly tender octopus imaginable. How they transform this normally chewy cephalopod into this delicate, melt in your mouth consistency is baffling. Together with the crisped tentacle tips compliments of the grilling coals, this was possibly the best octopus we’ve had, or will ever have. Finished with a garlic and lemon olive oil and a reprise of those fantastic cucumbers from earlier, it all makes for a dish you need to order when dining at Taverna Kyclades.
One of the signature dishes of the restaurant is their broiled or fried scallops. Here, the broiled variety are finished gorgeously with an oven kissed caramelization.
One of the pricier entrees on the menu at $24.95, we actually felt the cost was justified for the massive portion that arrives on your plate. No other restaurant would give you a platter of sea scallops like this one. This dish could easily be split between two people…two very happy people.
Below, the crabmeat stuffed filet of sole. Pan seared and finished in the oven, this is another mega portion that’s splittable between multiple diners.
Much of the food at Taverna Kyclades works like this. Your best bet, order a bunch of dishes from the menu and sample with friends to your heart’s content.
Another speciality of the restaurant is any of their whole, grilled fish. Here, the exquisite white and flaky Branzini, or Mediterranean seabass.
Served simply with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper, this is a great example of letting a high quality ingredient speak for itself.
The crisped skin shows off the chef’s talent. It’s no easy feat to get this perfect level of crunchy skin while maintaining such succulent and flaky white meat inside.
Any of the whole fish here are worth ordering. Other options include Red Snapper, Mediterranean Dorata and the smaller Red Mullets.
The lemon potatoes, which were admirably citrusy and fragrant, were an ideal accompaniment to the fish.
We’re already planning our next trip back to Taverna Kyclades, this time with an even larger group to ensure more tastes from the kitchen. If the rest of the dishes are anywhere near as good as what we tasted on our last trip, we’re surely in for another big treat.
While the restaurant is always packed, a weekday lunch is probably your best bet for quick seating. Dinner on the other hand is another story. Be prepared to wait. Just remember that food this good is worth the extra effort.