>> Friday, January 1, 2010

104-20 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 544-NICK

For quite some time, I'd been hoping that a new restaurant would venture forth into the neighborhood which would impress me enough to want to leave and start bragging. Nick's Bistro is pretty new and it's in the neighborhood, but I don't think the brags are gonna commence any time soon. The truth is, it's a downright disappointment.

In case you fail to notice the signage as you wander by (or as you sit in a traffic jam), Nick's is the Greek restaurant on Metropolitan Avenue with the multicolor lamps fading from white to green to purple to yellow, shooting up the facade of the building. Seemingly a fun and trendy place, Bro and I were determined to check out the fare here and so, just after the plows managed to clear enough snow to permit egress from our toasty warm apartments, we slogged south and ambled in, pleasantly surprised at how many people were already there. Other diners is a welcome sign, but lest I not remember my lesson from the Portofino fiasco, I kept an open mind. Nick's is well-lit, but not oppressively so. There's an overall feeling that, if they played their cards right, the restaurant could be a great go-to place for just about any occasion (dates, hanging with friends, etc.).

But, and I'm not trying to be mean here, they did a lot wrong.

First, our waitress, while otherwise nice, spent more time flirting with the people at the bar than almost anything else. Trying to get her attention to pay the check, I was literally waving my arms at her for a few minutes. And she was facing me. The HDTV playing ESPN or whatever over the bar is fine for a TGIFriday's, but it sucks class out of the room like a vacuum. Danny Brown isn't losing any sleep. Of course, TV or no TV, it wasn't the ritziest move of all time to send a guy around with a broom to sweep the floors and under the tables while everyone was eating. Sure, I know Nick's isn't trying to be Le Cirque, and it's better than him wandering around with a mop and one of those wheeled buckets, but having someone do the cleanup up while you're eating makes you feel like they want to close ASAP and can't wait to kick you out.

The menu is burger, bar snacks, and salad heavy. But there are real Greek appetizers and entrees. In fact, I liked that the menu was relatively small. Large menus are always a bad sign. When a restaurant has to cover fifty dishes, it's a good bet that none of them will be very good. But then Nick's fooled me by having almost as many specials as they did regular items on the menu. It was flabbergasting. So, true to form, the volume of dishes translated into relative mediocrity across the board.

Bro and I started with the Grilled Octopus and the Greek Vegetable Chips appetizers. The grilled octopus was extremely tender with no rubberiness whatsoever. I was impressed with the texture, but the aftertaste was decidedly too fishy. The vegetable chips were essentially batter-fried zucchini with a tzatziki sauce to dip them in. They tasted fine, but there isn't much else to say about them beyond their being a more healthy version of french fries.

For dinner, Bro ordered the Lobster Ravioli, not the most Greek thing on the menu, but I wasn't about to argue with him. Especially since I ordered the Grilled Swordfish. The ravioli was okay. Nothing special, really. He found them somewhat bland, but didn't complain about them beyond that. I tried it and also found it lacking, but it wasn't bad. My dinner was somewhat less awe-inspiring. Look at the picture below. Does that look like $24? For that kind of money, I'd like something more impressive than a virtually flavorless slab of fish with some asparagus and a lemon wedge. I chose the asparagus over a potato or rice and viewed this as another bad sign. If the restaurant offers you a choice of sides, it's because the chef doesn't know which one should go with it. This is a typical chain restaurant move, but I don't usually spend $24 on an entree at a chain restaurant. I expected more.

By this point, Bro was pretty much done spending his money, but I'm a sucker. I wanted to try the desserts. There's no menu, just a verbal list. I ordered the Baklava. And I was pleasantly surprised! So was Bro. Dessert was easily the best part of the meal.

Two appetizers, two entrees, one beer, one soda, one dessert, one coffee, one tea, tax and tip totaled $88.


Anonymous,  January 2, 2010 at 9:07 AM  

If you want to brag, try Katsuno already! It's not that far from Nick's and it's FANTASTIC.

Erica January 2, 2010 at 11:17 AM  

That's a shame. And I am glad that if nothing else, Portofino could serve as a lesson for you.

Jon Parker January 2, 2010 at 12:45 PM  

Katsuno's on the list but they're not cheap. So I've been putting them off to cover more of the less pricey places. As for Portofino... good times, good times.

Anonymous,  January 2, 2010 at 9:14 PM  

I've been to Nicks a couple of times and found it to be one of the better places in FOHI. Bro shouldn't be ordering lobster ravioli. Try the burgers which are real ground meat and not patties. The french fries are fresh cut too, which you don't get in many places. The souvlaki is great too.

Stick to the basics next time. As you said, Le Cirque, or Astoria for that matter, this is not.

Jon Parker January 3, 2010 at 1:11 AM  

I dunno, Anonymous #2, does it get more basic than grilled fish? And besides, this is supposed to be a Greek restaurant. Burgers and fries shouldn't even be on the menu. But hey, if they're great then great, I only recommend that focus on those dishes and thin down the menu by weeding out the "fancy" dishes.

CattyinQueens January 3, 2010 at 1:27 AM  

I hope somebody from Nick's Bistro reads this review...if nothing else, they could do something to improve the various elements of service that were turnoffs! But yeah, that plate is not a $24 plate, and you're totally right about giving diners the choice of sides--I never thought about that before!

Anonymous,  January 16, 2010 at 8:40 AM  

I am thinking of giving Nick's Bistro a try - when they first arrived I had such high hopes for an Astoria-quality Greek experience. The menu does not look so interesting to me but I noted a few classic Greek dishes so will give it a try. BTW, Katsuno across the street is a gem, pricey, yes, but high quality food, artfully presented, an exciting Japanese menu with more than the usual basic sushi - I really look forward to your review once you get there. Thanks for your reviews, I find them fun to read and very informative.

Jon Parker January 16, 2010 at 12:20 PM  

Glad to help. And please post a comment with your experience there. Maybe mine was weaker than yours will be.

Vanessa B.,  March 3, 2011 at 12:03 PM  

What an amazing place. The food was incredible, the dishes were creative and cooked to perfection. The service was excellent, they were very attentive and gave great food recommendations. The atmosphere is very warm, chic and friendly and the prices are reasonable, great value. I have recommended this place and will definitely be going back often.

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