Good things come in small packages, the saying goes. If you’re looking for confirmation of that adage, stop by Avlee Greek Kitchen, which operates out of a diminutive storefront in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn. The food delivers big and bold flavors that have provided the restaurant with a large and loyal following in the three-plus years since it opened.
One of the reasons for the restaurant’s success is owner Andrew Poulos’s insistence on working with never-frozen ingredients sourced locally. Herbs come from his own home garden. You can’t get much more farm-to-table than that. When it comes to execution, there are no complaints either.
The restaurant holds court in a long, narrow space, much of it given over to the glass-enclosed open kitchen. Appointments are kept simple. One wall is of whitewashed brick adorned with weathered shutters, and the ancient ceiling is of stamped tin, painted black. Wine is served in canning jars. Avlee is a food-first restaurant.
Witness the tirokafteri, a coarse-textured puree of bell pepper and jalapeños studded with feta; cayenne provides a palate-wakening jolt. Or open more serenely with fava mani, a culinary cousin of hummus infused with cumin.
Plump housemade stuffed grape leaves are redolent of dill, and there is good spanakopita that includes a surprise ingredient—creminis—in its spinach and cheese filling. But the real sleeper among the appetizers is the meatballs, which will rival anything that comes out of the Meatball Shop. The three orbs are warming and succulent, meltingly tender, presented simply in a sweet and chunky tomato sauce.
The first test of a Greek restaurant is its octopus. Avlee comes through with flying colors. The cephalopod is simmered until all the fight has gone out of it, then grilled and served in a tart dressing. Branzino is grilled whole and reaches you flecked with spots of charring that conceal sweet, tender flesh.
The same care extends surprisingly to desserts. Baklava, made on the premises, is not the usual ordinary intensely sweet ground confection sandwiched between layers of phyllo. Here the nut filling here is roughly chopped and has a depth and complexity that put you in mind of good pecan pie.
Price range: $4 to $18 for starters, $14 to $26 for main courses, $4 to $6 for dessert.
Avlee Greek Kitchen, 349 Smith Street, Brooklyn, N.Y., (718) 855-5125. Open seven days for lunch and dinner. Major credit cards are accepted.