Off the Hook is off the hook

THE COURIER/Photo by Bradley Hawks

“Which part of the lobster is your favorite,” my friend asks as I stare, dumbfounded, at the enormous lobster roll before me.

It is an entire lobster removed from its shell, giant claws—whole—and a buttery herbed tail, all sprinkled with sweet, juicy knuckle meat.

“I love it all,” I say.

The lobster roll at Off the Hook is literally off the hook.

After living in Astoria for almost 10 years, Iglent “Glen” Fejzulla noticed an obvious lack of non-Greek seafood restaurants in the area. Desiring to create an East Coast style “seafood shack,” he and business partner Dritan Xhuke (the two own Bocconcini in Little Neck) decided to open Off the Hook in the space formerly occupied by Montenegro Grill.

The front counter reveals an open kitchen and cold bar where oysters from both coasts chill atop glistening piles of ice. The chalkboard on the sidewalk boasts hard-to-believe specials like “order two dozen oysters, get a third dozen free.” An intimate lobby features a pair of swinging chairs made of old ship anchors. Lobster traps overhead act as lampshades and cast striped light patterns on the walls.

In the back, an aquatic mural painted by Fejzulla adorns the brick wall overlooking a small outdoor courtyard where guests can sip on a Bloody Mary, Cape Cod al fresco or any number of creative cocktails.

Available by the piece, oysters range from $1 to $1.50. They can also be ordered by the half-dozen or as part of a chilled seafood platter. One of the best deals is the “All-In” platter, an icy tray loaded with shrimp cocktail, clams, oysters and mussels with mignonette and spicy cocktail sauce for just $17. Dip slices of grilled table bread into decadent and creamy New England style clam chowder studded with potatoes and shredded carrot.  Plump, sweet Little Neck clams steamed in Pernod with a touch of cream arrive in a cast-iron skillet with a rustic loaf of bread.

Sandwiches range from shrimp salad on toasted brioche to a Pollock BLT and, of course, a Maine lobster roll. The potato chips are wildly addictive, homemade, and thickly sliced. Maine lobster is also served whole along with North Atlantic salmon on a savory pedestal of corn pudding.

But be sure to save room for dessert, where apple crisp gets a Middle Eastern twist.  Sliced apples are baked in coconut milk with cardamom, cinnamon, and a myriad of exotic flavors all crusted under crumbled cookies and with a dollop of vanilla frozen yogurt on top. They also make their own fresh ginger ale with actual ginger puree and lime wedges.

From atmosphere to menu, this little oasis just off of 28th Avenue magically transports you to a small New England tavern where something as simple as velvety clam chowder can warm the spirit and cool your nerves.

Off the Hook
28-08 34th Street, Astoria
Dinner daily from 5 p.m.