Astoria resident and ‘Chopped’ champion brings the tastes of the Greek Islands to new restaurant

Photo courtesy of Oli.Vine

“Chopped” champion Nicholas Poulmentis is a purist when it comes to his ingredients – particular enough to walk out of a job at the Astoria restaurant Akrotiri Seafood Taverna, where he designed the menu.

“I stopped associating with that place because they wouldn’t provide the proper ingredients,” he said of his former employer.

The Greek chef’s new project is called Oli.Vine, a contemporary Mediterranean restaurant that opened up on April 4 at 36-03 Ditmars Blvd. in Astoria.

Poulmentis, who was born in New York City to Greek parents, left the U.S. when he was a year old to live on the Greek island of Kythira. Ever-inspired by his culinary upbringing on the island, his goal with the new restaurant was to fuse insular Greek dishes with the ubiquity of New York’s food stock, where a chef can get their hands on ingredients from across the world.

Poulmentis lived in Kythira for 37 years, where he was largely limited to the island’s native ingredients. He said he worked at a seafood restaurant there where they would cook whatever they could catch.

Now he’s bringing those tastes to Astoria – and going through great lengths in order to do so. Poulmentis took vrahosalata, a form of produce native to Greece, back with him on a trip in preparation for this new venture. He said that he gave the produce to a local farmer who was able to grow it locally and supply it for Oli.Vine.

Hot off of his recent win on the popular Food Network show over the summer, he’s hoping to popularize these flavors. Oli.Vine specializes in seafood dishes and house-made pastas with chef’s signature take on Greek recipes and ingredients.

Dishes include the shrimp grape leaf maki roll, which fuses tempura shrimp with the classic stuffed grapa; black tarama with octopus ink, an elegant take on the Greek cured roe dish; and smoked goat cheese gnocchi.

Poulmentis said that he’s excited to bring traditional Greek dishes to New York. In this vein, he included a dish called pita sfakiani, a flatbread appetizer made from homemade phyllo dough, barrel-aged feta, gorgonzola and poppy seeds.

The restaurant is currently taking reservations on the site at oli-vine.com/reservations/.