It has been affirmed over and over again that location is everything.
Well, in the case of Molos Restaurant—situated at the water’s edge in Weehawken, N.J., with an unobstructed view of the Manhattan skyline—location is only part of the story. Day or night, but especially at sunset, the view itself is worthy of a visit.
The other part of the story is the food. With executive chef Gregory Zapantis overseeing the kitchen, the stunning New York City view at night with its multicolored lights dancing on the still waters of the Hudson River is just the crowning glory to an impressive gastronomic dining experience.
After enjoying Greek cooking, initially at my mother-in-law’s table, and at dozens of restaurants both in Greece and the United States since then, I thought I had experienced every variation of Greek cuisine—home cooking to gourmet and everything in between. But still, Zapantis managed to surprise and delight with unusual pairings of ingredients, preparation, and presentation.
Joining father–daughter team Jerry and Eliana Stefanitsis at their waterfront location previously occupied by Arthur’s Landing, Molos Restaurant is a 12,000-square-foot multilevel chic space that serves lunch, brunch, dinner, and caters private events.
While we perused the dinner menu we were served char-grilled olive bread, with small plates of hummus, herbed Kalamata olives, and mild tasting radishes to whet our appetites. There were so many good choices that we finally left it up to Zapantis to deliver a tasting menu of his choice.
As is the Greek custom, our meal began with a sampling of small plates and dips.
It consisted of Greek village salad (horiatiki) looking and tasting the way it should—but rarely does in the United States—with ripe heirloom tomatoes, crispy cucumbers and peppers, slivered red onions, pitted olives, quality feta cheese, and unusual but perfectly satisfying watercress greens; sashimi-grade char-grilled octopus served with caramelized onions and eggplant purée; baby grilled calamari with herb aioli; and the chef’s house specialty of grilled scallop wrapped in kataifi (shredded wheat) and served with an olive oil and lemon sauce—a truly spectacular taste, crispy outside, silky tender inside, with lemon tinged flavor balancing the mild scallop.
All the while we were drinking ouzo and watching the ferries crossing to and fro from Weehawken to Manhattan through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
The grand meze was a meal in itself and I was feeling full with the appetizer-sized portions of the small plates. But then came the main course of lavraki (Mediterranean sea bass), perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. Zapantis paired the mild white fish with a side of sautéed broccoli rabe with garlic and feta, adding complexity to the dish.
By that time the restaurant was emptying out, and Zapantis had a chance to come out of the kitchen for a chat. We spoke of his home on the rugged Greek island of Cephalonia, his passion for food, his love of family and his culture, and his hope for Molos as a haven for Greek and non-Greek alike to find authentic food in a glamorous setting.
We ended the evening with traditional Greek pastries delivered in a nontraditional way. There was a large triangle of baklava and another of galaktoboureko—both made in the restaurant and absolutely outstanding—served with a side of pomegranate seeds and cherry vanilla ice cream topped with a mint leaf … and of course sweet and double-boiled “Ellinikos Kafés” (Greek coffee).
The wine list sports numerous outstanding Greek wines. A number of very good ones can be ordered by the glass instead of having to purchase an entire bottle.
From Santorini, get the Atlantis Assyrtiko, a crisp and aromatic white wine that pairs beautifully with the fish and seafood dishes. From Gaia Estate in the Peloponnese there is Notios Moschofilero, another very nice and aromatic wine that is a blend of moschofilero and roditis grapes. The moschofilero contributes a bright floral flavor while the roditis provides a very smooth citrus character.
Two substantial reds, Papaioannou Agiorgitiko, from Nemea in the Peloponnese, and Thymiopoulos Xinomavro, among the top 10 most highly rated wines from Naousa in Greek Macedonia, beautifully complement Zapantis’s lamb and beef dishes. The by-the-glass wines range from $9 to $11 a glass.
On the winter menu, their exceptional mezze is priced between $6 and $12 per plate, and if you follow Greek custom you can do dinner by ordering a couple meze dishes per person to have with your wine or ouzo.
The first courses are well-priced at $14 to $19. The fish and seafood are market-priced between $14 and $29. Main courses are between $22 and $39. Make sure to order lemon potatoes with the meats or horta, steamed wild greens for the fish, traditional side dishes beloved by the Greeks. Both are exceptional.
Featuring Mediterranean specialties and using only organic produce and meat sourced from top local purveyors plus a seafood bar and fresh fish flown in daily from around the world, guarantees that whether your taste buds yearn for food from land or sea, you will find it artfully served at Molos.
1 Pershing Road