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Dining Out: El Farolito

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El Farolito. Think lighthouse. There's a little lighthouse in the south of Argentina by that name. El Farolito. Now, think tango. There's also a famous tango number called El Farolito.

Three years back, when the time seemed right for high class Italian cuisine there, chef Juan C. Rojas opened the original in posh Montauk Manor in Montauk. If you don't already know, Montauk is that town at the end of the Island which happens to be known for its lighthouse. And in the summer that's exactly where you will find Rojas. The rest of the year he is busy preparing the menu at the year-old El Farolito's Astoria location. Wow.

They say if you like Italian food, you'll love Argentinean. Case en point: My dining companion at El Farolito requested the mixed appetizer of fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, eggplant, sun dried tomatoes and portobello mushrooms stacked layer upon layer from large to small.

And then there was the Argentinean antipasto with stuffed rolled beef, eggplant, pickled beef tongue and a Russian style potato salad. There was grilled calamari with pesto sauce served with a salad and the Argentinean beef (or chicken) patty.

Argentineans love their pastas. No wonder when there's ravioli stuffed with porcini mushrooms and a delicate sauce of white wine and Gorgonzola. Or canelon stuffed with spinach, ricotta cheese in tomato sauce au gratin.

Shell steak in a black pepper sauce smothered in brandy and filet mignon in a sauteed mushroom sauce with shallots and red wine bowed to Argentina's love of beef and the zuppa di pesce with lobster, clams, calamari, shrimp and salmon goes Italian. Paella Marinera with lobster, shrimp, clams salmon and calamari has Argentinean tendencies.

For the sweet tooth, we were intrigued to find two versions of crepes. We tried them both. One was an apple crepe heated in brandy and an Argentinean with caramel. Crepes the South American way are smaller and thicker but delicioso.

Open the door to the brightly lit El Montaza and Egyptian music emerges, sounding to me a lot like Turkish. A sail fish dominates the restaurant. Remember, it's a seafood place.

Egyptian food is a blend of Greek, Turkish and Italian. But the food served at El Montaza has an added ingredient. A Mexican cook has added his spin. It's evident in the eggplant appetizer: three or four small lengthwise slices are seasoned, sauteed and served on a plate with sauteed green chile peppers and tahini sauce. They're hot! It's delicious and complimentary with dinner as are babaghanoush and tahini.

With appetizers comes the covered bread basket hiding golden pita. It's worth a trip alone.

Try a salad. Try a Greek salad. The Greek is unique; a "one-of-the-best-I-ever-ate" kind of thing. There were just one or two shreds of lettuce. The tomatoes and cucumbers were cube sized, the dark olives tiny but the top off was a maxi slab of feta. For a main course my dining companion had shrimp in a tomato cilantro sauce. This casserole with good sized shrimp in a red sauce proved to be exceptional.

The mini cups of Egyptian coffee are just right. No desserts here but there's red wine or white. In fact the bottle is kept on top of the espresso machine. I'm not sure if I'll get to Egypt in this lifetime but at least I have an inkling of what it tastes like. It happened on Steinway in Astoria.

THE BOTTOM LINE

El Farolito offers a sophisticated menu with fine Argentinean dishes and a large selection of pastas and wines. And now a little tango music, please. At El Montaza, you'll find Egyptian cuisine with touches of Italian, Greek and Turkish cuisine. It's a seafood restaurant/fish market. Great pitas.

ChefS' Choice

Mix antipasto (fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, eggplant, sundry tomatoes and portobello mushrooms...$6.95

Argentinean antipasto (stuffed beef, eggplant, beef tongue, potato salad)...$7.95

Grilled calamari (marinated calamari pesto sauce served with salad)... $6.96

Canalones Gratinados (Canelon stuffed with spinach, chicken, riccotta cheese in tomato sauce au' gratin) ...$11.95

Paella marinera (lobster, shrimp, clams, salmon, calamari)...$16.95

Baby lamb chops in red wine ... $16. 95

***

Salmon steak (topped with dill butter) ... $12.95

Swordfish steak...$13.95

Calamari in hazlenut breading...$8.95

Clams or mussels & linguine...$11.95

Captain of the table (broiled scallops, clams, shrimp, crab legs and salmon) ... $17.95

Jumbo sea scallops ... $17.95

Broiled lobster tails...$17.95

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