This month, we set sail to Anemos Greek Cuisine in Manalapan. This gorgeous surprise is located in the Alexander Plaza, not far from the Monmouth County Library Headquarters. You can practically feel the caress of a Greek island breeze when you open the door. It’s a comfortably elegant restaurant, much larger than you expect, with a white and blue interior, ionic columns, tasteful art, and a ceiling with dramatic chandeliers and billowy drapes. The lighting and acoustics are terrific, and the warm staff is happy to tell you about the menu and meal preparations. It’s a lovely choice for a family night and pretty enough for a special evening.
Our server brought us a complimentary basket of warm pita and hummus as we chose our appetizers. We selected the spinach and feta-filled Spanakopita. The filling is bundled in triangles of hand-stretched phyllo dough. They are delicate and so crispy. It’s a favorite of mine, and these were delicious. We also had the Dolmadakia, which are stuffed grape leaves with a raisin remoulade. These are served warm and are well-worth a try.
Diner one selected the Scallops Served over Orzo mixed with eggplant, tomato, feta and dakos with an aged balsamic reduction. The grill on the large scallops was impressive. The orzo has a strong tomato-forward flavor, not what he considered a standard flavor combo, but a satisfying one nonetheless, and our diner finished his meal with a smile.
Diner two picked the Char-Grilled Atlantic Salmon. This pretty dish is served on a bed of artichoke-spinach orzotto, dressed with tzatziki. The flavors are mild but nicely balanced, and she remarked that the combination of the moist salmon, vegetables and pasta was downright delightful and fresh.
Diner three went with the Chicken Kebob served with pilaf. The tasty, marinated chicken cubes alternate with grilled vegetables, and the grill work is great. The pilaf runs on the sweet side, thanks to cranberries which took our diner by surprise. You may want to ask them to omit if you prefer a non-sweet taste, but our diner was pleased, saying the dish had a summery edge and was not too filing.
I tried the traditional Pastichio – sort of the Greek version of lasagna, which is made with bucatini pasta and cinnamon-spiced ground beef topped with a thick creamy covering of béchamel. This fragrant offering was pure to the Greek tradition. It is a filling dish, so adjust your appetizer order so you have the room. Its cousin, Moussaka, is a vegetarian delight of layered sliced potatoes, a thick layer of eggplant topped with creamy béchamel sauce. Both are served in a casserole dish, and both hit the mark.
Now for dessert. You simply cannot skip the Persian Mini Baklavas. Their version of this iconic Greek sweet is three pieces of pastry served with a side of gelato, and they are fantastic. It’s moist without being too sticky or sweet. We also had the Souffle Sokolata, which is sort of a lava cake served warm with vanilla gelato. They describe it as a blend of dark and milk chocolate, but this was all deep, intense chocolate to me. If you like a powerful chocolate cake with a brownie-like bite, you will really enjoy this.
For a lighter finish, we also tried the Mykonos Crepe, which is filled with sliced banana, Nutella and chocolate gelato. It’s much less complex than our other selections, and if you like fruit, this might be the pick for you.
Anemos has a lovely party room for up to 120 people, and there is Greek music on selected nights. The coffee was good, and the bathrooms are large.
Cost – Moderate
What we liked- The crisp and attractive interior, the authentic experience from the menu to the servers, the friendly owner, the lighting and design accents, the big parking lot. BYOB
Anemos Greek Cuisine is located at 333 Route 9 South in the Alexander Plaza in Manalapan. 732-414-6590. It is open Tuesday through Thursday noon to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday noon to 10 am and Sunday noon to 9 pm, closed Mondays. AnemosGreekCuisine.com