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As the N train eased into the Ditmars Boulevard station, I glanced down and gasped. My favorite Greek fish place—the nautically themed Scouna Taverna—had vanished. No more charcoal-grilled porgy, deboned and sprinkled with olive oil and oregano, I thought while descending the metal steps from the station, no more miniature smelts, so fresh they almost arrived swimming, and worst of all, no more skordalia, the whipped potato and raw-garlic dip that was the hook of my review a few years back.
In its place was Anna’s Corner, a new spot swaddled in colorful pennants, Greek flags, and patriotic bunting. One glance at the menu, and hope returned—Anna’s is not a fish spot, but one of those rare Astorian Greeks that features roasted meats rather than seafood. The next day I was back with a carload of hungry pals, including a couple of “designated eaters”—folks with big appetites who can consume astonishing quantities of food. We ordered like criminals about to be executed from a menu bewildering in its length and diversity, but like the old place, favoring specialties from Crete.
The central delight of the menu is arni—spit-roasted baby lamb presented in a fragrant, boxcar-shaped pile, the crisp skin only micrometers thick, glistening with fat and flecked with oregano. One of the designated eaters raised the plate to his nose, sniffed and smiled, sluiced the one-pound plate ($19.95) with greenish olive oil, then dug in. We quickly ordered another portion. Almost as good was the roast pork, delivered in bite-size chunks. Occasionally, suckling pig is available. Also worth ordering are loukanika xoriatika ($8), a massive heap of savory grilled sausages sided as in Crete with pieces of toast.
Despite a complete lack of finned fish, seafood is available. The octopus ($12) is particularly distinguished, a pair of tapering tentacles that arrive charred and bathed in red-wine vinegar, obligingly sliced up at your table by the gruff but lovable waiter. The many short dishes called mezze make Anna’s a good bet for vegetarians, of which our party included two—though the stench of roast meat hanging over the table required a certain intestinal fortitude on their part. The abundant plates of dandelion leaves and beets served with their greens, both bargain priced at $4, are wonderful when irrigated with olive oil and vinegar and vigorously salted. The french fries are killer, but skip the unbearably dull mashed fava beans. Among meat-bearing mezze, the stuffed romaine rules (maroullontolmades, $8), a quartet of dark leaves enfolding a stuffing of ground meat, bathed in a lemon-and-egg-yolk sauce called avogolemono.
Anna’s Corner has a decent Greek wine list, featuring whites, reds, roses, and—the island’s passion—retsina. Unfortunately, on two occasions good cheap bottles were unavailable, and the staff tried to substitute considerably more expensive ones. To their credit, perhaps, they didn’t seem to see anything wrong with this practice, and I was given a withering look when I bitched about it—we were free-spending non-Cretans, after all.
And, to my delight, the skordalia remains just as good as it was at Scouna, a blizzard of mashed potatoes, olive oil, lemon, and raw garlic. Have it plain with bread, or accompanied by fried zucchini or boiled cod. Either way, you’ll leave Anna’s Corner with your lips burning and a smile on your face.