April 2, 2007 | Insatiable Critic

Anthos: Translations for the 21st Century

 Anthos retaurant, New York City

Michael Psilakis in the kitchen at Anthos with lamb chops daring to be rare. Photo: Steven Richter

        Anthos, Greek for “blossom,” is the stage for chef-partner Michael Psilakis’s obsessive dream — an homage to his mom’s rustic home cooking, everything Greek respun — lighter, more refined, sophisticated, and tantalizing. The chef’s daily changing giveaway on a wooden platform — tonight mushroom fritter, exquisite tarama, a little bowl of olives, bits of deep-fried sweetbread, and tuna cubes with fried parsley in a small bowl — are “exactly what you’d get with your drink if you came to my mother’s home,” he says at an early friends-and-family tasting.

        I am stunned by his riff on humble sardines escabèche, swimming on a thick glass rectangle beside a puddle the chef refers to as olive “tar”; the crunch of ever-so-faintly pickled cucumber soars against the clean, sweet brine of the sea. Equally dazzling are raw shrimp with feta crumbs in a tangy tomato essence, paired with crab and sea urchin — each in its own crystal teardrop-shaped bowl — easily a starter for two, although the menu doesn’t say so. Splendid lamb, chop and loin, joined by a cocotte of slightly louche moussaka, impresses anyway. And pastry cook Bill Corbett’s inflected desserts are equally pleasing: especially his triple play on baklava and his goat cheesecake with plump poached kumquats.

        Nothing here is simple, but it all emerges happily less convoluted than the chef’s food at Dona (which I loved anyway). Prices are ambitious, too — entrées are $28 to $44. That makes the $28 lunchtime prix fixe a real bargain.

36 West 52nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. 212 582 6900.

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