Silvery whole fish nestled in shaved ice shimmer in the light. Bright painted scenes of Greek fishing villages with swaths of cobalt-blue water and sky adorn the walls. Without even looking at the menu, it’s obvious from the full tables and the contented vibe that the curse of this space—which has failed to produce a successful restaurant in the last twenty years—has finally been lifted.
Chef-owner Athanasios “Tom” Konidaris, along with co-owner Eric Papougenis, has created a sunny and warm atmosphere for serving the whole-fish and Greek specialties he grew up with as a boy on the island of Lefkas, south of Corfu.
A veteran restaurateur, Konidaris also owns Zesty’s in Philadelphia and previously owned two Greek restaurants there, both named Onasis.
“I wanted to bring Greece to Cherry Hill,” Konidaris says.
Although his menu veers from his native island with staples like ravioli, crab cakes, and salmon, his cooking mostly pays homage to his roots with flaming cheese, spanakopita, lamb T-bones, and a wide assortment of imported fresh fish.
The roasted eggplant mashed with herbs and olive oil and served with wedges of warm, crisp pita was a respectable starter, as were the fresh mussels cooked in a broth of Konidaris’s own creation: white wine, garlic, and spicy Dijon mustard. But my favorite was the saganaki, soft Greek Kefalograviera cheese, lightly breaded, then flambéed tableside with a shot of Ouzo and extinguished with a squeeze of lemon.
Some of the Greek specialties were disappointing, especially the moussaka and the pastitsio, both too heavy on the nutmeg. Spanakopita was inconsistent—light and airy one night, dense on another.
But the raison d’être at Onasis is the fresh fish, flown in from Greece and Portugal twice a week, Konidaris says. The fish are charbroiled, then filleted and served with a drizzle of olive oil, a spritz of lemon, and a sprinkle of capers.
Loup de mer, a Mediterranean sea bass with lean white flesh and a fine texture, and also the Royal Dorado, an exceptionally moist and elegant fish, were fresh and mild. Mediterranean grouper, a special, was a delight, crusted with shaved almonds and served with a mushroom saffron risotto and a light wine sauce.
Another special, lamb T-bones, is so popular at Konidaris’s restaurants that his regulars won’t let him drop it. The lamb is tender and succulent right next to the bone, and it is nicely complemented with potatoes and caramelized onions
Add a wedge of baklava and you’ve got a fitting conclusion toan excellent Greek meal in a restaurant that deserves to stick around.—Maureen Fitzgerald
800 Haddonfield Road, Cherry Hill (856-488-5888). Lunch: Monday through Friday, 11 am to 4 pm. Dinner: Sunday through Thursday, 4 pm to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday, 4 to 11 pm. Brunch: Saturday and Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm. All major credit cards are accepted. Wheelchair access easy.
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