We popped into Limani last night for a quick bite before seeing Belle and Sebastian play in the vast Radio City Music Hall next door. Recently my husband has been hankering to check out Estiatorio Milos, despite its apparently steep pricing, so when we learned that Limani was opened last November by a manager with 16 years of experience at Milos and the kitchen is headed up by M.J. Alam, formerly executive chef there, we thought it might be interesting to visit.
At first glance the place is huge, able to seat up to 200 guests. Its clean, largely white interior evokes a marine theme with blue bottles of olive oil on each table, blue LED lighting, silver fish on the walls and black netting hanging from the ceiling. The slightly chintzy furnishings were, in my other half's words, the "sign of an authentic Greek restaurant".
There was an impressive looking display of seafood next to the open kitchen, featuring local catches and Mediterranean imports. We spied tempting looking wild carabineiros prawns with vibrant red shells, some as large as lobsters. On closer inspection however many of the fish looked less than fresh, with dull, pale grey pupils rather than the bright, dark eyes found on those that have been freshly caught, so we put out trust in our waiter and asked him what he recommended.
Wanting to try something classically Greek we opted to share a starter of kolokithi when told it was one of Limani's signature dishes. We also added two carabineiri and a balada, apparently a uniquely Mediterranean fish, known to be particularly tasty.
Kolokithi struck me as a Greek version of chips and dip - paper thin slices of courgette and aubergine fried in a filigree of batter before being stacked around a creamy, citrusy tzatziki that was heady with garlic. Cubes of crispy, stretchy kefalograviera cheese added to the fun, tasting not unlike that American Italian favourite - deep fried mozzarella sticks.
Without question the prices here are high, setting the bar for our expectations as a result. So it was disappointing when the filleted fish that followed was lukewarm, overcooked and retained an unforgivable number of bones. Worse yet our prawns were mushy with disintegrated flesh. No matter how delicious the lovely roe in the heads was, at over $80 a pound we wondered if they were having a laugh at our expense.
We complained of course, and after being gruffly questioned by Chef we were served another carabineiros. This time it was a shining example of perfect execution - firm and meaty, charred and sweet. The sight of the crustacean's alarmingly gory looking juices didn't stop us from using our fingers to prise every last morsel from the shell.
They took the fish off the bill and we left happy, impressed by how our concerns had been addressed, but wondering if our experience had been the exception.
45 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10111
Tel: 212 858 9200