Pete Wells Gives Midtown’s Limani and Estiatorio Milos One Star Each

The New York Times restaurant critic points out the many similarities and few crucial differences between the two restaurants

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Just take the N train to Astoria. Seriously.

This week, Pete Wells of The New York Times reviewed a dueling duo of coastal Greek cuisine in Midtown: Limani in Rockefeller Center and its just-north neighbor, Estiatorio Milos. Throughout the piece, he draws attention to the two restaurants’ overwhelming number of similarities, along with their few key differences — it’s essentially his guide on where to eat astronomically expensive Mediterranean seafood in Midtown Manhattan, and it turns out that your choice “may come down to style.”

Estiatoria Milos, open since 1997, is seen as the leader of the two by Wells in terms of trends and menu, as Limani only just opened in November. They each serve “Greek food with a strong emphasis on formidably expensive seafood, which is displayed on a bed of ice near the open kitchen”; both menus highlight “creatures that circulate in the Mediterranean and the eastern Atlantic and generally migrate to New York only when somebody buys them a plane ticket”; and, in most ways, they are equally as impressive, as “the array and quality of seafood at both establishments can give a seafood lover a happy case of vertigo.”

Now for those key differences. It begins easily enough — with price. Wells declares definitively that “Limani is the cheaper restaurant, both in the menu prices and in the fish, which is sold by weight before cleaning. It charged me $85 a pound for those red shrimp, or about $17.50 each. Milos gave them to me for $95 a pound… On the rest of the menu, Limani’s prices are merely expensive, while the ones at Milos read like a long series of typographical errors.” This ends up being the point that costs Milos a star, as the critic acknowledges that “Prices seem to have doubled at least since 1997, when Ruth Reichl gave Milos two stars in its last New York Times review. Today… one star is more appropriate.” The difference in price between the two menus is palpable in food, however; Wells cautions that “Limani doesn’t always duplicate its finesse at the grill throughout the kitchen.”

The Times critic then breaks down the décor, as he insists that, if money is no object, a reader’s preference will be determined by preferred interior style, where the chasm between the two dining establishments is at its widest. Inside, Milos “is a one-of-a-kind blend of exposed structural columns in bare concrete and weathered Greek artifacts, including amphorae big enough to hide a pair of rodeo clowns. The split-level dining room is loud, lively and full of people who act like regulars.” Conversely, Limani “darts off on its own in the interior-design department. The floor of the dining room is done in blinding white marble, and the leather seats are a softer white. In the center is an infinity pool that keeps changing from blue to violet… Some people will look at it and see a Greek fishing town taken over by millionaires. I saw South Beach.”

In the end, Wells acknowledges the absurdity of the notion that, for his readers, “money is not at the top of your pile of worries” by directing them where any self-respecting in-the-know New Yorker would go for fantastic and wallet-friendly Greek seafood, writing, “By now, though, readers who give any thought to their dinner budgets have no doubt decided to run screaming from Midtown and head straight for Astoria, Queens.”

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