Stepping into Thalassa is like stepping onto the deck of a boat for two reasons. The first is the subtle nautical theme of its beautiful interior design. Sails are stretched across the ceiling and ropes hang next to the stairs leading to the bottom floor. Greek wooden floors are surrounded by Greek white stone walls.
The second reason is the freshness of the seafood. Thalassa receives daily shipments from the Mediterranean and other places, making it the next best thing to actually eating on the fishing boat. The restaurant was started by the Makris family, owners of the century-old import company Fantis Foods, so it would have been a crime for them not to open a restaurant with all the fresh ingredients at hand. This access includes an expansive, expertly curated selection of Greek wines.
The fried zucchini chips are most likely to get me back into Thalassa. They’re the high society version of fried pickle chips. Accompanied with eggplant and Graviera cheese, the zucchini chips are arranged in a tower surrounding a healthy portion of tzatziki sauce. The sauce reminded me of an aioli, with which it shares some ingredients but adds strained yogurt. I wouldn’t be surprised if the DEA soon declared this highly addictive dish a controlled substance.
The popular octopodi and scallops appetizers are also excellent. The slightly grilled octopus is massaged by hand, leaving it perfectly tender. It was the only dish I tried that made me forget about everything else on the plate, in a good way. The seared scallops provide layered tastes, wrapped in the crisp, stringy flakes of kataifi pastry that provide wonderful texture. They’re complimented by a modest taste of Kalamata olive balsamic reduction.
Another favorite was the Horiatiki, an authentic Greek peasant salad with large pieces juicy, organic tomatoes and Dodonis feta cheese.
My entree was filleted Lavraki, a white fish that had been charcoal grilled, topped with capers and served with steamed wild greens. It was very good—I looked up from my clean plate to find my dining companions still working on their first halves of fish—but not as memorable as the appetizer dishes.
Executive chef Ralpheal Abrahante, who has been with Thalassa since it opened in Nov. 2002, is also a pastry chef, which shows in the selection of deserts: baklava, halva, ravani, ekmek… What I really fell for, though, was simply the warm strawberries on the seasonal fruit plate, served with thick sheep’s milk yogurt and toasted walnuts. I was also able to enjoy the panna cotta, a dish I normally don’t have the taste for. But I’ll certainly be back at Thalassa to try other things I didn’t think I liked.
Thalassa Restaurant is located at 179 Franklin St, New York, NY 10013, United States