Right off of Steinway Street on 23rd Avenue, in the heart of Astoria, is the home of Christo’s Steakhouse. This place is kickin’ it old school, but believe me when I tell you that it is not all pomp and circumstance.
Owner, Alan Wartski seems to have a steady hand and maybe even the Midas touch. Counting Times Square’s Edison Ballroom and TriBeCa’s Cosmopolitan Hotel among his holdings, he certainly is one to watch.
On this particular evening I was accompanied by my 11 year-old nephew and budding gourmand, Theo Vicioso. Don’t let the age of this young man fool you. As a 3-year veteran of Kids Culinary Summer Camp of Vermont, he had quite a bit to say.
The evening was launched with the presentation of a simple yet incredibly delicious Olive Tapenade. This standard amuse-bouche would normally not be mentioned in a review, but it is noteworthy, as the taste and quality of the extra virgin olive oil used in the preparation was so apparent, that we knew we were in for a quality culinary adventure.
In this journalist’s opinion, many steakhouses these days lean toward the concept of oversimplification. Christo’s takes all of the positive elements of this format, including the formidable wine list, adds a significant Greek flair with ethnic menu additions and delivers a taste of the Mediterranean from their ‘raw bar’.
We started with Littleneck Clams ($15.00 doz.), Pacific Northwest Oysters ($32.00 doz.) and Loukaniko, Seasonal Greek Sausage Served over a Gigantes Bean Salad ($12.00). The mollusks were briny and extremely fresh and the sausage was without hesitation, one of the best in my experience and cooked to absolute perfection over their 1200 degree grill, creating a crispy, caramelized finish to the casing.
To clean our palate a bit, we shared the special salad of the evening which consisted of Bibb Lettuce, Spicy Walnuts, Sliced Pears and Crumbled Gorgonzola with a feather light vinaigrette. Refreshed and ready to sock it out, we headed in for more.
Round 2 delivered Saganaki, Pan Fried Valhotyri Cheese ($10.00) and Veal Sweetbreads, Sauteed in Lemon Assyrtiko Sauce ($14.00). Admittedly, this is my first time stumbling upon sweetbreads in a restaurant of this ethnic leaning, but they absolutely stepped up and delivered it elegantly, with an original twist.
To break it up and refresh ourselves for what was to come, we headed into the kitchen to have a look at the well-oiled line preparing this fine meal, as well as take a peek into the meticulously maintained walk-ins and their dry aging room. Their beef is carefully aged for 21 days to achieve peak flavor and the ultimate in tenderness. The sense of order and freshness housed in these storage facilities was a sure sign that indeed, Chef Mina Newman was in charge.
The Main event presented itself in the form of a 24 oz. Dry Aged T-Bone ($36.00) and a plateful of Grilled Colossal Shrimp Scampi with lemon and extra virgin olive oil (p/lb.). The T-Bone was exquisite. Simply finished with course sea salt and dried mountain oregano and served with a trio of dipping sauces – béarnaise, red wine with shallot and the house signature steak sauce, it did not disappoint. We chose the traditional creamed spinach to ride shotgun. Topped with crispy fried onions, it was a welcome accompaniment.
Just when we thought that we couldn’t take any more, the dizzying desserts came in the form of a fudge centered Crème Brûlée ($8.00) and a Crunchy Banana Crème Martini ($8.00). It was somewhere in the middle of my espresso and Theo’s decaf that he cried uncle… and I cried nephew! We were knocked out!