Bizaare Ave. Café has replaced the Cup Diner on the corner of 35th Avenue and 36th Street in Astoria, a rapidly burgeoning nexus of restaurant rows in the area surrounding the American Museum of the Moving Image and Kaufman Astoria Studios. This aptly named restaurant uses a play on the words bizarre and bazaar for its moniker. The “bazaar” comes from their shtick that all of the appointments are for sale, including the art on the walls, the sofa upon which you are seated and the tableware. The “bizarre”— well, you be the judge.
This 125-seat restaurant is divided roughly down the middle. One side is decorated with groupings of vintage sofas and chairs arranged around low tables, all for sale. On the other side there is a bar and more conventional tables and booths. The room is punctuated with stout, semi-acanthus-shaped painted columns and various colored lights. A large flat-screen monitor suspended from the ceiling cranks out a repeating slide show of dramatic nature photos of auroras, tornados, spectacular surf and the like gleaned from the Internet. Large-format photos of iconic images adorn the walls, also available for purchase.
This being Greek Astoria, the obligatory hummus and tzatziki came unbidden upon our arrival, along with some excellent flatbread. We ordered a couple of glasses of white wine. Unfortunately, they forgot to chill the chardonnay. It took a while before we could attract the waiter’s eye, and even longer to get a replacement.
A crab appetizer served on endive leaves was uninspired. Crab and endive, and not much else to give it flavor. The fried oyster appetizer offered up two oysters in a perfect light batter, but the flavor of the oysters themselves was less than perfect.
Grilled peach and mesclun salad with goat cheese dressing and mint with proscuitto was more interesting. The flavors melded well and they were generous with the proscuitto, although inexplicably stingy with the little bitty bits of peach.
The Bizaare Slider Selection was a very satisfying trio of filled mini-buns. The pulled pork with slaw emanated Southern charm. The beef short ribs with mushrooms were lush. The caramelized onions on the beef burger elevated it to something special. Too bad that when we returned for lunch, their idea of a classic cheeseburger turned out to be one which, hidden in a disproportionately sized brioche bun, seemed hardly larger than the slider, and dry without the caramelized onions.
The anti-pièce de résistance was seared tuna Wellington wrapped in phyllo dough with tomato confit. The tuna was overcooked, and the pastry was a soggy mess. We sent it back, replacing it with housemade sausages, a significant improvement.
Dessert was a soggy brownie a la mode.
Bizaare Ave. Café also offers an extensive sushi menu. On a subsequent lunch visit we enjoyed their roll combination of California, spicy tuna and eel with avocado rolls. They were all fresh and expertly prepared. Their sushi seems worth delving further into.
Bizaare Ave. Café is a friendly and stylish venue that needs to work a little harder on its food. If you stick with the less ambitious items on the menu or the sushi, you can have an enjoyable time soaking up the quirky ambiance. Who knows, you may even come home with some new dinnerware.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bizaare Ave. Cafe
35-01 36th St.
Astoria, NY 11106
Price Range: Appetizers: $7-14, entrees: $14-27
Cuisine: Eclectic American and sushi.
Setting: Early yard sale
Service: Friendly, professional
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily, Sunday brunch
Alcohol: Full license
Credit Cards: Yes
Noise Level: Acceptable
Handicap Accessible: Yes
©2009 Community News Group
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