Gourmet Shot: Michael Psilakis

Michael Psilakis took the culinary world by storm a few years ago with the opening of his creative modern Greek restaurant Anthos in midtown Manhattan. He was named Chef of the Year by both Esquire and Bon Appétit, and his establishment was nominated for a James Beard Award. Not bad for a local boy with no formal culinary training.

Anthos, now closed, helped change the way Americans view Hellenic cuisine, and Psilakis’ newest spot, FishTag, on the Upper West Side, may change the way we pair drinks with food.

It’s a “hybrid between a wine bar and fish restaurant,” he says. While the food may be familiar—expertly grilled fish, supple smoked octopus and rustic Greek salads—the chef is committed to rethinking standard alcohol parings. That way, “beverage becomes part of the food experience,” he says.

FishTag’s menu is where you really get a sense of his vision. Instead of dividing the food into appetizers and entrées, there’s one long list of all the dishes organized by flavor profile, from lightest to heaviest. (Large plates are in black and small in red.) This of course helps immensely when you’re trying to decide what to drink with your meal. What are even more helpful are the copious pairing suggestions in the margins, which include everything from “Light & Aromatic Ales” and “Earthy & Funky Reds” to “Peaty Scotches.”

The restaurant also has seven tasty signature cocktails and a large selection of whiskies and aged rums. Not a surprise, since the chef’s a self-described “brown-spirits person” who likes his dram neat.

One of his favorite combinations is smoked salmon with rye whiskey. “It’s really a wonderful pairing and an unexpected one,” he says. “A little bit of whiskey helps cut through that fat.” Another favorite is FishTag’s Worm-Wood Fire Ball (absinthe, St-Germain, pineapple juice, lemon juice, egg white) with a spicy tuna and bulgur salad.

Psilakis might just be onto something…

Worm-Wood Fire Ball

Contributed by Michael Psilakis

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Egg white
  • 3 oz Kübler Absinthe (or clear anisette)
  • 1 oz St-Germain
  • 2 oz Pineapple juice
  • Splash lemon juice
  • Garnish: Star anise and Maraschino cherry
  • Glass: Martini

PREPARATION:

Add the egg white to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously without ice. Add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice. Shake hard and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a star anise pod and a Maraschino cherry (plus a little of the cherry’s syrup as well).

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