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Avra Estiatorio Breezes in to a New Hot Spot in Miami, 150 Feet from the Ocean!
It’s been twenty-two years since Avra Estiatorio swept into the Greek culinary scene, like a fresh island breeze, when it first opened its doors. Greek food is certainly no stranger to the world of fine dining. It’s come a long way since gyro and souvlaki stands, and traditional Greek offerings of moussaka and pastichio at diners across the country. Avra was one of the trendsetters that would start a new emergence of Mediterranean and Greek cuisine that is now at the forefront of epicurean food culture.
It all started at the 48th street location in the Cosmopolitan Building of NYC, where rustic chic meets urban sophistication. As cofounder Nick Tsoulos described it, “it’s like going into Grandma’s livingroom or house”, but with a grandma who has a keen eye for design, combining the casual allure of wooden beams, moldings and fixtures with white table cloth elegance. Minimalism is key here, where the highlight is baskets of colorfully stacked fresh produce and “catch of the day” displays on ice. Seeing is believing, and when that grilled dorado you just eyed and ordered for dinner has just emerged, like a goddess nymph, straight from the ocean, your Greek island vacation is just a block away with lunch or dinner in NYC.
Avra’s latest venture takes us to Miami for a dramatic scene at The Estates at Acqualina Villa, in a luxury condominium complex located at 17883 Collins Ave in Sunny Isle Beach. With 10,000 square feet of space and just 150 feet from the ocean, this is the ultimate volume restaurant experience. Here you get an iconic combination of all the Avra restaurants with ocean views and al fresco dining. Pergolas in the indoor dining room are designed with the jewel of Mykonos, the bougainvillea flower, and various greenery is strewed throughout the dining area in big clay pots that resemble Grecian urns. Cornucopias of fish vitrines, breads, olive jars, fruits, vegetables, and basil herbs enhance the dramatic décor. Avra Miami will make her grand entrance in November 2022.
Avra has come a long way from the Greek coastal village of Nafpaktos where Nick Tsoulos was born and raised. He, along with his father and uncles, would go fishing regularly for local seafood and spent many nights dining on fresh fish drizzled in olive oil from the family farm. Nick kept these traditions close to him when his family immigrated to NYC, and he remained committed to bringing a taste of Nafpaktos to New York with his restaurant vision.
Meaning breeze in Greek, she derives its name from ancient Greek mythology, and like the breeze that she is, Avra graces each space with her free flowing presence. After taking the 48th street location by storm, it was time to breeze her way into a second location, which would have a larger seafood market type of display and more of those artfully designed signature baskets of fresh fruits and veggies in a bi-level space with a downstairs pool and two private rooms for events and functions. Nick had his sights on Madison Avenue and 60th Street, once home to the famed nightclub Copacabana, and thirteen years later the second outpost of Avra was born. Nick wanted to keep the same minimal elegance that inspired the 48th Street location, but instead of walking into Grandma’s beautifully designed livingroom, you are walking into a modern, swanky, designer’s livingroom with a lounge like feel that boasts four cabanas upstairs to give you an elevated beach resort feel with accents of cream, matte gold, and white. Free standing trees weave in and around the dining area to add a simple touch of natural beauty. What is Avra’s breeze without the breath of trees? When you walk in, you are transported to a space that’s warm, open, and inviting, and entices you to reminisce about the setting sun over your favorite Greek island.
While NYC is known for its great restaurants, and busy New Yorkers do like to dine out a lot, Avra changed course and headed out west to bring a breath of fresh Greek ocean air to Beverly Hills. And like New Yorkers, in LA, they like everything big, or it’s time to go home. Five years ago, Avra opened her doors to the sunny streets of LA, where year round outdoor dining is common, and she’s there to stay. Avra Beverly Hills offers ample outdoor dining on their sidewalk patio with an indoor dining area to match NYC 60th Street location. It’s LA chic with a healthy dose of Greek swag. We especially like the centerpieces of gourmet olive oil and vinegar, a basic staple of Greek ingredients, that create a simple table design where the emphasis is on the food.
Avra’s success did not stop there. Despite the covid pandemic, Avra was not done with NYC. Nick Tsoulos still had plans to open yet another location at one of the most toured and travelled places in the world. Rockefeller Center would be the new hot spot. He waited 6-8 months, after the pandemic hit, and took a chance. He signed the lease, and in May of this year the largest of the Avra restaurants was born with three levels, an enormous outdoor space, an all glass private room, a bar on the ground floor, and a waterfall with a pool. Like all the Avra restaurants, it features an open kitchen concept and fish market display on the mezzanine floor.
The main attraction, of course, beyond Avra’s magnificent ambience at any one of its locations, is the food. An array of fresh seafood and vegetables are the star attractions here, using simple and pure ingredients of olive oil and sea salt. Avra’s menu is inspired by the tavernas along Greece’s coastline and the several islands that make up a predominantly seafaring nation. Look for notable items like grilled sea bass and a rare collection of fagri, lithrini, and wild branzino, flown in straight from the Mediterranean, charcoal grilled and dressed in a sauce of lemon and olive oil. Being able to choose your own fish from their market display is an experience to be savored. And for those who like it straight from the ocean, uncooked, and cracked open, Avra offers an extensive raw bar of oyster and clam varieties, and shrimp and lobster cocktail. Or how about tuna and salmon carpaccio with micro-herbs and olive oil, or ceviche served with giant white beans in Greek known as “gigantes”?
Feeling more adventurous? Their sashimi and ceviche dishes come in colorful and spicy flavors, like Hamachi with micro parsley and cilantro, red peppers, sea salt, jalapeno and extra virgin olive oil. There is also Lavraki ceviche with lime juice, sesame oil, sriracha oil, extra virgin olive oil, jalapeno, sesame seeds, green and red peppers, and endive.
Though seafood might be the thing to get, if you are in the mood for a land specialty, they offer lamb, chicken, and beef dishes, just as delicious as their seafood menu. One of their signature dishes is the American wagyu cote de bouef, a 30-day dry aged snake river farms bone in 32 oz cut of beef served with house made onion rings and truffle fries.
And then there are the sides. Traditional favorites like lemon roasted potatoes, spinach and rice, and steamed wild greens called “horta” are the perfect companion to their main course dishes. You’ll definitely want to try an appetizer for the table. They are known for their “Avra Chips”, crispy zucchini and eggplant chips thinly sliced with a side of refreshing yogurt sauce infused with shredded cucumber and garlic perfume, more commonly known among Greeks as “tzatziki sauce.” Don’t forget to leave room for dessert! Olive oil walnut cakes, and baklava and custard are all baked in-house daily. One of their most popular sweet treats, available in all locations, is a French vanilla ice cream flecked with Tahitian vanilla beans.
From the food, to the service, to the décor everything flows together at Avra, as if it’s been kissed by the sun and embraced by a breeze. It’s open, airy and spacious to give you a clean and opulent dining experience where you can enjoy exquisite Greek dishes presented in a beautiful palette of colors and flavors that keep your palate dancing on its toes. Avra sets the scene for the pace and the place to eat, see, and be seen.