Estia Greek Taverna
222 North Radnor-Chester Road
Under the proprietorship of brothers Pete & Nick Pashalis and Pete’s brother-in-law, John Lois, Estia Greek Taverna in Radnor made its debut on Monday, August 4, 2014, with a slew of local dignitaries and traditional Greek plate-breaking ceremony.
Part of the Aegean Restaurant Group, which also owns Estia in Center City Philadelphia and Marlton, New Jersey, as well as several Pietro’s Coal Oven Pizzeria locations, Estia Radnor is situated behind the Radnor Hotel in a small strip mall fronting a corporate center. The restaurant is an inviting, casually sophisticated affair, boasting white-washed stone arches, bamboo ceilings, repurposed wood plank floors & tabletops, and a comfortable bar area. There is also a wrap-around patio for al fresco dining.
Food-wise, as you would undoubtedly surmise, the emphasis is upon the highest quality seafood, which also includes flying in pristinely fresh representatives from the far reaches of the Mediterranean. Traditional Hellenic favorites also share the spotlight, as well as several intriguing Grecian takes on classic international comfort fare.
There are a number of interesting options to start things off... Plump & succulent Prince Edward Island mussels not only swim to table in a white wine garlic broth but also fortified with a splash of ouzo and awash with fresh tomatoes and sprinkling of feta cheese…Calamari is perfectly grilled and stuffed with a trio of Greek cheeses… Roasted red beets are companioned by gigandes (giant) beans and served with a zippy potato garlic spread… And lamb meatballs are packed with feta cheese and bathed in a rich tomato sauce. All are recommended.
I do have a few personal faves, however… The light yet luscious spinach pie, for instance. The handmade phyllo dough is ethereally flaky, and the creamy spinach interior is not only enhanced with scallions, leeks, and feta cheese, but also rife with dill, which bestows a uniquely fresh, palate-pleasing dimension to the presentation.
When it comes to appetizers, though (or the perfect complement to a mid-afternoon libation), nothing quite does the trick like the kitchen’s irresistible Estia chips. Wafer-thin slices of eggplant & zucchini are lightly fried and artfully arranged in the shape of a miniature tower. The accompanying dollop of tzatziki – a blend of plain yogurt, cucumbers, olive oil, and garlic – is perfect for dipping. The wow factor definitely comes into play here… This is one dish that is as delicious as it is photogenic.
The classic Greek salad also makes a marvelous dinner starter or a light luncheon entrée. If you want to up the ante a bit, you may add shrimp (pictured) or chicken. And Estia’s rendition is, indeed, “classic.” Tomato, cucumber, peppers, onions, and olives are buttressed by generous slabs of feta cheese… But the key to a great Greek salad, as I’ve mentioned on several occasions, lies in the dressing – the proper proportions of oil, vinegar, herbs, and other seasonings – and, in this case, the extraordinary red wine vinaigrette is enough to turn heads.
Conversely, the only disappointment among the preludes turned out to be the highly touted grilled Mediterranean octopus. When queried, servers couldn’t seem to find enough glowing adjectives… unfortunately, these turned out to be little more than wishful thinking. You expect octopus to be chewy… but the specimen we encountered was inordinately so… It was also virtually tasteless, which undoubtedly indicates that it spent entirely too much time suffering over the flame. Not even the accompanying pungent fava purée could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Once past this minor stumbling block, however, as you move on to light fare and entrées, the kitchen is right back on track. The moussaka, for example, a traditional Greek casserole, is nothing less than benchmark. A foundation of perfectly cooked potatoes is topped with layers of tender eggplant, seductively seasoned ground beef, a rich Greek béchamel sauce spruced up with delightfully salty kefalograviera cheese, and a splash of tomato sauce. Picture perfect and utterly delicious.
Equally commendable is the pasta à la Grecca, rigatoni adorned with fresh spinach & basil tossed with a light tomato sauce and sprinkling of grated feta cheese. Like the aforementioned Greek salad, you may specify the addition of chicken (pictured) or shrimp. In this case, I would highly recommend the former, which is incredibly moist, subtly spiced, and particularly complementary to the al dente pasta.
When it comes specifically to matters piscatorial, the kitchen offers such delicacies as organic salmon served with spinach rice; halibut baked with onions, peppers, potatoes, tomato, and herbs; grilled American snapper with horta (steamed greens); and grilled wild swordfish kebab with tomato, onion, and peppers. Also featured is a “Fish of the Day,” prepared according to the whim of the chef. Recently sampled was the branzino, Mediterranean sea bass, served with briam, a baked vegetable stew (luncheon portion pictured). Briam features a variety of slow-baked vegetables mixed with tomato sauce, olive oil, and fresh herbs. If you’ve never tasted this traditional Greek favorite, you’re in for a rare treat. In addition to pairing up with several entrées, it is also available as a side dish.
Among the traditional lighter fare, you may also indulge in the likes of bifteki (ground beef & lamb) & chicken souvlaki and fish gyro, chef’s choice fish served on pita with yogurt and cabbage topped with tomato relish… But the kitchen also gives a nice Hellenic twist to the great American burger as well. A superbly grilled, precisely as ordered ground sirloin patty is placed on a slice of ripe tomato, topped with caramelized onions, generous slather of that wonderful tzatziki sauce, and then crowned with a julienne of cucumber. The entire affair is then presented on a brioche roll and served up with Greek fries – gently sprinkled with sea salt & oregano.
Sweet (and I do mean sweet) endings include: galaktoboureko, semolina custard wrapped in phyllo with orange lemon syrup; karidopita, walnut cake with cinnamon and lemon syrup; and ekmek, pistachios layered between shredded phyllo with custard & whipped cream. On the other hand, I’d prefer to fall back on the home-spun baklava, irresistibly flaky layers of phyllo with almonds, orange-honey syrup, and garnish of vanilla gelato. You may also supplement your denouement with a number of scotches, ouzos, and ports, as well as Samos Vin Doux, a traditional Greek dessert wine.
Just one or two closing comments… Estia has become very popular VERY fast. You can probably drop by for a late lunch without benefit of prearrangement… but dinner reservations are mandatory and may be secured by calling the restaurant in person or making arrangements online at their website. And always keep in mind that Estia is a particularly pleasant stopover for a mid-afternoon snack (those fabulous Estia chips, for instance) and leisurely liquid libation.
The Artful Diner
Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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