79° Good Afternoon
79° Good Afternoon

Amara Kitchen & Cocktails review

Pan-seared dry scallops are rich, with cauliflower puree,

Pan-seared dry scallops are rich, with cauliflower puree, oyster mushrooms and scallop jus are an appetizer at Amara Kitchen & Cocktails in Blue Point. Credit: Daniel Brennan

Homer described the dangers of navigating the strait between Scylla and Charybdis, two sea nymphs-turned-monsters. To escape, sailors had to choose: Doom some comrades, but definitely get through, or imperil all to save all.

The poet could have been a restaurant consultant.

Except for catching king crab or trucking long-haul, the dining business might top a list of high-risk ventures.

Amara Kitchen & Cocktails, a sprawling, mostly Greek, renovated restaurant and caterer, moved into the former quarters of Blue. After a few courses, you'll think it sides with Scylla, willing to make sacrifices rather than go all-in. The result: sometimes good, never more.

You're advised that tzatziki, the yogurt-based dip or sauce, may be made tableside. And it's prepared with the flourishes usually reserved for setting duck on fire or at least whipping up a Caesar salad. The staff turns it into a big deal. That makes you think it will be one. Yet, the tzatziki that arrives with an assortment of spreads tastes better than the custom-made version.

Those savory spreads lead Amara's appetizers. There's a "feisty feta" dip, another of blood-orange hummus, along with beet hummus, white bean and garlic potato. And the hand-rolled pita stands out. Feta and olives are a fine accompaniment, too. Amara makes a lively country salad, anchored by feta and tomatoes; and a satisfying one with red and yellow beets and shaved fennel.

Saganaki, or pan-fried graviera cheese, is a snappy opener. Fried calamari, coated with chickpea flour, similarly deserves your attention. The gilded ringlets and tentacles materialize with hot peppers, fried lemons, garlic butter and that ancient Greek favorite, marinara sauce. Grilled octopus receives respectable treatment, and a citrus vinaigrette. But only the lemon-aioli crostini highlight the tepid, saffron-tinted, nearly non-nautical "fisherman's soup."

Cauliflower puree and oyster mushrooms combine to make a palatable bed for pan-seared, rich, dry scallops. They're much better than overdone shrimp adrift in feta-tomato sauce. Spanakopita, a spinach-and-feta turnover, has a flaky exterior, but is parched inside.

Dry, whole black sea bass and whole rainbow trout, both dotted with capers, are exposed to more heat than a Santorini tour guide in July. Filet mignon, ordered medium-rare, sports the 51st shade of gray. Pan-seared salmon, skin carbonized, will make you reach for any tzatziki. Braised lamb is greasy and tough; moussaka and pastitsio, underseasoned. Lemon chicken, however, is all right, paired with lemon potatoes.

Confronted with olive oil-and-oregano gelato (dubbed "olive you") or phyllo-wrapped crème brûlée (called "golden fleece"), settle for a getaway of baklava.

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