WHERE: 1814 Western Ave., Guilderland.
WHEN: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 3-9 p.m. Sunday.
OTHER INFO: 608-6400 www.athosrestaurant.com All major credit cards accepted. Children’s menu available. Handicapped accessible.
Athos, the Greek restaurant located where the Cabernet Cafe once was, is a good place to while away a couple of hours sampling authentic Greek food — so good, in fact, you’ll want to shout “opah!”
We found the food first-rate, and the service efficient and friendly. There is a spacious dining room, but also tables and booths in the pub area. The dining room was not quite full, but the pub area was completely unoccupied except for a couple of guys eating at the bar. We chose a comfortable booth there and were rewarded with the personal attention of barkeep Christopher, who is a member of the family that runs the place.
Besides the regular menu, Athos is offering a spring fixed-price menu of three courses for $22.95 from Sundays to Thursdays, and, while the choices were inviting enough, we were looking for something different.
The cold pikilia (appetizers) included a deal where you could sample three for $10 — Greek spreads served with warm pita bread. We chose the tzatziki, a traditional spread of plain yogurt, cucumber, garlic and dill; tirokafteri, which is creamed feta cheese with spicy peppers; and melitsanosalata, a smoked purée of roasted eggplant. Each was delicious but with different textures and savory nuances, which we enhanced with a red pepper sauce that was served in a little tureen alongside them.
Athos also offers a variety of hot appetizers including Octapathi Scharas (grilled octopus served on a nest of arugula) for $12 and Papoutsaki Melitsana (baby eggplant stuffed with onions, garlic, fresh tomato and cheese) for $8. The hot appetizers can be upgraded to entrees with accompaniments.
Dinner date Beverly was intrigued by Christopher’s description of the fresh fish tis imeras (fish of the day) and agreed to his offer to give us a quick briefing on the possibilities. Athos buys its fresh fish from New York, and on this evening was offering three, at market price. Beverly chose the Brazzini ($32), which is known as the sea bass of the Mediterranean, silver-skinned with firm, white flesh that resembles red snapper in taste but looked to me like lake trout. It is grilled whole — with head and tail intact — with olive oil and seasonings and then filleted tableside. It makes for a dramatic presentation.
The fish came with a choice of lemon potatoes or rice pilaf and veggie, which was cauliflower.
I chose the Macedonian Lamb for my entree ($22) from the menu’s grill section. It’s roasted lamb that is sliced and served in its natural juices, along with my choice of lemon potatoes and cauliflower. The lamb was tender, flavorful and done perfectly medium rare per my request. The lemon potatoes (a particular favorite of mine) were especially good and a perfect piquant foil for the savory lamb.
Athos’ menu has a classic Greek section where you can find Moussaka, which is layered roasted eggplant, ground beef and thinly sliced potatoes in a Béchamel sauce, accompanied by vegetables for $18; Veal Corfu, which consists of morsels of tender veal simmered in a clay pot with spinach, leeks and fresh tomatoes and served with rice pilaf ($22); and Rabbit Stephatho, which is wild rabbit in a stew with fresh tomato, pearl onions and red wine and served with rice pilaf and veggies ($22).
We concluded our dinner with Greek coffees, strong and sweet in demitasse cups ($3), and with Galaktobouriko, which is flaky filo pastry filled with custard and glazed with honey ($6). The dessert menu also includes classic Baklava ($6), which is filo pastry layered with almonds and walnuts and glazed with honey; Ravani ($6), almond cake soaked in a citrus-flavored simple syrup; Mousse Chocolata ($6), chocolate mousse with “a hint” of Grand Marnier and walnuts; and a Baklava Sundae ($6), which is vanilla ice cream topped with shredded Baklava.
Our total tab for two entrees, appetizers, coffees and desserts, with tax and tip, came to $99.08. Our final verdict often is summed up by the answer to the question: Would we return? Beverly’s response was succinct: “In a heartbeat.”
Athos is a family affair, with Executive Chef Harry Hatziparaskevas in charge of cuisine, assisted by Chef Stratton Sokaris, his nephew who is a graduate of Canisius College and studied culinary arts at Schenectady County Community College. Sokaris worked under Master Chef Dale Miller at Jack’s Oyster House in Albany and at Longfellows in Saratoga Springs. George Danes, who grew up in the restaurant business in Albany with his father, is also part of the management team at Athos. Hatziparaskevas is also owner of the Ithaka Greek restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.