Dining Out: Untrained but experienced, fine dining rises – QNS.com

Dining Out: Untrained but experienced, fine dining rises

By Carol Brock


2370 Jericho Turnpike

Garden City Park


I’ve just had a most amazing dinner. It was absolutely sensational from the first sip of Merlot to the venison appetizer introduction, to the apple preserve Napoleon finale. And how Ecco, an eight-month-old restaurant on Jericho Turnpike in Garden City Park, evolved is even more amazing.

To put themselves through college, Michael and Anna were waiting on tables at TGI Fridays. Management frowned on staff dating, so Michael Psilakis got a got a job at Greek-owned Caffe Angelica. Six months later, he was manager. Two years later he was a partner at another location. Two years after that he took over Angleica’s. And through it all, whenever someone was out, Michael subbed in the kitchen. When his executive chef at Angelica’s “walked” to open his own restaurant and took two chefs with him, Michael, an accountant with a passion for food, took over, He loved it. He is self-taught and he is amazing. Not only is the food fabulous, but ultra-stylishly presented. Overall, it’s dining as fine as I've had at gourmet society black tie dinners— but self taught.

Anna (they married and went to Italy, her roots) had been studying textiles. She read a lot and tasted a lot and became wine savvy. (I’m still enthusing over that Merlot.)

Since Michael and Anna’s vision was for a more formal, quieter place, they closed down for three months and upgraded. There are now three small, intimate dining rooms with elegant silk drapes, tapestry-covered chairs and wall sconces. We found the North Hall (ditto the East Hall and Center Hall) delightfully relaxing, enabling us to concentrate on the cuisine.

And did we! The chef sent out a dip (tonight a puree of sun dried tomatoes and chick peas) with calamata olives and roasted garlic cloves for our chewy, sesame-crusted bread. And then the appetizers were presented.

From the seasonal offerings (the menu lists “traditional” and “chef's selection” items), I selected pan-seared tenderloin of venison, medium rare slices draped over a salad of tiny, whole green beans, with sweet onions and a Calvados sauce with a gone-to-heaven taste.

My dinner companion chose the housemade gnocchi, petite, unbelievably tender, made with ricotta, served with a ragout of veal, pork and beef with shaved grana podano. Companion number two chose pan-seared veal sweetbreads cleverly combined with cauliflower and baby arugula in a brown butter, caper and blonde raisin sauce. A blissful first course for one and all.

And then we shared an exquisite wild green field salad of frisee, baby arugula, mash and lamb lettuce. One forkful of rigatoni with braised fresh cranberry beans, sun-dried tomatoes, escarole on roasted garlic cloves with feta and I knew that Michael had more than a passing passion for pasta. The balance of sauce to pasta was exquisite.

Game is prominently featured at Ecco. (In fact, fall is game dinner time.) Sliced, reassembled, pan roasted, dry aged, Muscovy duck breast (big!) was accompanied by red bliss potatoes with whole garlic cloves and a sweet sour orange sauce. Fresh asparagus spears beautifully executed—not cooked, not raw—and a garnish of a tiny carrots with two inch stems split lengthwise and looking freshly inviting, complimented it.

Our third entree was pan-roasted milk-fed veal delectably served alongside a porcini mushroom tart with melted fontina, steamed spinach and a Marsala wine demi glace. That perky carrot garnish added a colorful seasonal touch here, also.

Too often, even in fine dining, the appetizer and entree are superb and I find the dessert disappointing. Not so at Ecco. (And Michael does desserts.) Chocolate truffle mousse appeared ultra tempting: molded Verona mousse on a pecan Creole cookie topped with chocolate ganache and peanut butter gelato. Beside it were caramelized baby bananas and banana gelato. All our desserts were partnered with gelato. The ricotta cheesecake had a cluster of fresh strawberries, whipped cream and pistachio gelato. My Napoleon had maple walnut. More fine dining—no wonder private parties are 20-30 percent of the business.

Italians have a way of making one work mean a lot of things. Ecco can mean “You really go there because something special is happening.” Touché!

The Bottom Line

A treasure: Fine dining. Refined ambiance. Professional service. Full bar with cordials and cognacs. Wine tasting dinners. In-season game dinners. Also perfect for small private parties.

Chef's Choice

Tenderloin of Lamb Risotto (baby artichokes, caramelized onions, lamb á jus)…$12

Housemade Gnocchi (rustic ragout of veal, pork & beef, shaved grana podona)…$9

Pan-Seared Veal Sweetbreads (arugula, brown butter, caper, golden raisin sauce)…$I0

Pan-Roasted Milk-fed Veal (porcini mushroom & onion tart with seared cauliflower, baby melted fontina, baby carrots & steamed spinach, Marsala demi glaze)… $27

Seared Durade—Mediterranean baby black bass (slow poached broccoli rabe, fresh herbs, virgin olive oil & fresh lemon juice)..,$24

Pan roasted, dry aged, Muscovy duck breast (roasted red bliss potatoes, pancetta and garlic cloves, sweet & sour orange sauce)… $24

Chocolate Truffle Mousse (caramelized bananas, peanut butter, gelato and banana gelato)..$7

Cuisine: Fine dining

Setting: Refined

Service: Professional

Hours: D (4 p.m.) 6 days. Prix fixe L Tues to F. Closed M

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Lot. Valet

Dress: Casual but neat. No jeans in DR

Credit cards: All major. No Discover

Private parties: From 20 to 120 (3 rooms)

Takeout: Welcome

Off-premise catering: Yes

Smoking: Bar

Noise level: Quiet

Handicap access: Yes

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