- Restaurant Thalassa
- Cuisine Greek
- Location 179 Franklin Street, Manhattan
- Phone 212-941-7661
- Directions Hopstop
- Atmosphere multi-level, casual chic, open, tranquil
- Attire smart/business casual
- Ideal for 1x1, group dining, private events, business meals
- Price Expensive
Look, I get invited to my fair share of tastings and events, in addition to getting pitched more random products than you could ever imagine. I take my time and read through each and every public relations email proposal but, 9 times out of 10, I'm not interested. Or maybe "ain't nobody got time for that" is a better way to describe what may come off as a sheer diss. There are not enough hours in my day to write about all of the amazing restaurants and products that I want to pen, let alone what I get pitched. So, you can only imagine how "right now" or tantalizing something has to be and/or be described to capture my interest. And my time.
Thalassa, a 10-year old Greek in Tribeca, has been on my long list of "restaurants to try" for years. And, now that I work in the neighborhood, Susan's media tasting invitation could not have come at a more perfect time.
Set within a historic building on Franklin Street stands the multi-level dining, wining, and events destination. Thalassa boasts a climate-controlled wine and cheese cave, housing more than 12,000 bottles. And, aesthetically, the interior space - or, shall I say spaces - is stunning: Exposed-brick walls, ceilings reaching heavenly heights, grand floral arrangements and vase displays, sailboat sails used as dramatic drapery...
Just beyond the bar area stands a vast display of fresh seafood and vegetables on ice.
Since I was already a couple of cocktails in (I met some friends at Weather Up prior to dinner.), I chose to forgo ordering a beverage at the beginning of the meal and, instead, opted for the pre-set wine pairing.
Upon being seated, our table was promptly dressed with a basket of warm pita and sliced breads, olive oil, assorted pitted olives, and hummus.
An amuse bouche followed shortly thereafter: A vegetarian fritter of some sort, perhaps lentil or chickpea, crowned with creamy yogurt and snipped green onions.
An array of six dishes made up our bountiful appetizer course: Zucchini-Eggplant Chips, Octapodi, Tartare Trio, Pikilia, Maine Diver Sea Scallops, and Arugula (salad).
Thinly-sliced ribbons of eggplant and zucchini were enveloped by a crunchy, tempura-like batter and interlaced with creamy tzatziki. Cubes of deep fried saganaki cheese moated the perfectly-constructed "stack" of heaven.
"I don't eat octopus," I politely responded, upon being offered the octopodi. "But thanks, anyways." After receiving a fair amount of peer preassure, jabs, and insistence that "Greek-prepared octopus is different," I gave in and took a damn bite. Then another. Followed by three or four more. The texture of the meat was firm, yet incredibly tender at the same time, if that even makes any sense. Does it? There were no creepy-looking tentacles that locked themselves on to my tongue, ravaging the inside of my mouth. I guess that's just what I had always feared would happen.
The simply-grilled Portuguese octopus was accompanied by micro greens and a zesty, citrus aioli.
Ice cream-like scoops of sushi-grade dorado, tuna, and European sea bass were presented as a perfectly-packaged trio, served atop marinated vegetables and crowned with either taramaosalata, tzatziki, or garlic/almond mousse. Each tartare was finished with a drizzle of fragrant truffle oil.
Warm pita points and Greek dips go together like peas and carrots. Don't they? The world "pikilia" means "variety" in Greek. And that's exactly what this appetizer was - a variety of four dips. While I found a few to be too firm and cold, flavor-wise, they were all delightful and robust.
Maine Diver Sea Scallops
Fresh, jumbo scallops were delicately wrapped in "kataifi," or shredded phyllo dough, and baked with sheep's milk butter before being presented atop a drizzled kalamata olive/balsamic reduction. The dish was chopped with a colorful "salsa" of tomatoes and green onions.
This was, hands down, one of the most creative - and perfectly-executed - dishes that I've had in recent memory. The crunchy, baked kataifi played so well, texturally, against the supple flesh of the scallops. Bravo and worth a trip to Thalassa, alone!
Judging by the menu, "Arugula" is the closest salad option that fits both the description (on the menu) and the actual ingredients on the plate. Well, with the exception of the arugula leaves, of course! Because if you look at the picture, above, there is no arugula in sight! That didn't bother me too much, as I find that lettuce is boring and just gets in the way of everything.
Encircled by a moat of sliced, ruby-red beets was a mountain of (some sort of) a creamy, voluptuous dip that was tented by rectangular "logs" of batter-fried saganaki cheese.
For our entree course, our server presented the table with a whole, grilled branzino, before vanishing - with plate - back to the kitchen. Upon his return, each of us received a plate topped with branzino filet, greens, and a halved lemon.
The typing paper white-hued filet was finished with a quick - and buttery - pan sear and topped with capers. The flesh was so creamy, clean, and fresh, with a flavor evoking a subtle taste of the briny ocean. I ate every last bite.
For dessert, an array of four plates made up our final course: Baklava, Ekmek, Mastiha Panna Cotta, Valrhona Molten Chocolate Cake.
Of the four desserts, this was my personal favorite: Cylindrically-shaped baklava was beautifully presented and paired with berries and coffee ice cream. I found the latter to be a random afterthought, as "coffee" flavor would not have been my first pick for the ice cream accompaniment.
Encircled by a dark chocolate shell was a blend of Kaitaifi, phyllo dough "noodles," cream and pistachios. Mixed berries and a scoop of pistachio ice cream accompanied.
Mastiha Panna Cotta
Delicate and subtly-scented with masthiha (sap from an evergreen bush), the panna cotta was topped with caramelized pears and accompanied with mixed dark berries.
Valrhona Molten Chocolate Cake
While I'd never "throw a molten chocolate cake out of bed," it's certainly not a dessert that I have particular respect for or a desire to order. Outside of a Jean-Georges establishment, that is. I mean, even frickin' Chili's has a frickin "molten chocolate cake" on their menu. Sigh. What iced the cake for me, no pun intended, was the fact that, yet again, this dessert was paired with boring coffee ice cream. Yawn.
From its incredibly tranquil and urbanely heaven-like space, to the fresh and delicious food plus bountiful drink, Thalassa is a Tribeca winner. Now that I work in the immediate area, I will not hesitate to return for cocktails and snacks, in addition to considering the space for a private event.
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle