An illuminated, faux olive tree rises from a room divider at Platia Greek Kitchen. It’s the only fake thing in the place.
Platia is the latest establishment to move into this space near the Syosset Long Island Rail Road station, a spot that has hosted more dining rooms than there are stops on the Port Jefferson branch. Platia is number 14 since 1990.
It’s also the best one in decades to enter the neighborhood’s equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle, restaurant edition.
The look is similar to that of Platia’s immediate predecessor, Nissos, dressed in travel-brochure bright white and Aegean blue. Billowy, sail-like cloth undulates from the ceiling. Platia adds evocative, big black-and-white photos that put you in the mood for island hopping.
Besides, there’s all the familiar, bouzouki-driven background sound to let you fantasize that Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates will come dancing out of the kitchen. Channel your inner Zorba.
The crowd would likely join in. After all, Platia means the center of town, where people celebrate. Families and friends, young, middle-aged and elderly, fill tables large and small. Everyone appears to be in a very good mood, sharing dishes and a pleasant sense of surprise. Credit watchful owners Nick and George Nerantzinis, formerly of the Celebrity Diner, and Gregory Spanos; and especially chef Michael Giannakis. His résumé includes venues as different from one another as Citi Field and Barclays Center, Manhattan’s Rao’s and Avra.
Enjoy Giannakis’ feta me meli, baked feta cheese in a phyllo turnover finished with sesame seeds, honey and fig jam. Savor the saganaki, an ideal rendition of pan-fried kefalograviera cheese. Cut into that tender, deftly charred tentacle of octopus, dressed with vinegar, olive oil and oregano.
Nibble on the addictive chips of eggplant and zucchini. Slather eggplant, hummus, and spiced cheese spreads on pita bread. Give in to the crisp fried calamari and the beet-and-goat cheese salad as readily as you’d skip routine spanakopita and nearly blackened loukaniko sausage.
Giannakis prepares fine, fairly priced, whole, chargrilled dorado and branzino, both with a light lemon-and-olive oil sauce, served head-on and splayed. Roasted chicken, accented with a lemon-and-oregano sauce, is a modest, respectable version for the risk-averse.
His bone-in pork chop, or brizola, stands out, along with a juicy rib-eye steak. Each should have the company of either crusty, oven-roasted potatoes with lemon, olive oil and herbs, or hand-cut fries capped with feta and oregano. The mixed grill for two takes in pork and lamb chops, grilled chicken, beef-and-lamb kebab and loukaniko.
Platia keeps traditional with a husky, flavorful moussaka of zucchini and eggplant with ground beef; and an equally satisfying pastitsio with ground beef, both under a cloud of creamy béchamel sauce.
On the side with these and the meatier main courses, sample giant lima beans braised in tomato sauce; baked chickpeas; and braised horta, steamed bitter greens glistening from more lemon and olive oil.
The desserts are few. Try the refreshing Greek yogurt and lush galaktoboureko, or custard in phyllo. Baklava is on the dry side. Ice cream comes in fourth.
But by now you’ll be very content, maybe with a cup of Greek coffee or a glass of sweet wine, and definitely because Platia is for real.