Theo’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar, where ambiance is prevalent
■ BY BOB NICOLAIDES
Can an economist make a successful restaurateur? The question certainly can be answered affirmatively since we have a glittery example at hand, that of young Theo Katsihtis, partner with his culinary specialist father Peter Katsihtis at Theo’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, 1048 Third Avenue, (at the southwestern corner of 62nd Street,) who is the living proof of this fact!
At age 22, young Theo who holds degrees in Economics and Political Sciences from Boston University and from the Imperial College in London has attained the success that evades others at middle-age and beyond and this is due to his astute character, extraordinary perception and fast-learning nature. Needless to say that Theo, at age 20 dabbed in politics and has worked for London’s Conservative Party straight out of 10 Downing Street, under none other than British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Of his new career, all Katsihtis has to say is that he never thought while in London that he would go in this direction, but once he tried it and had it tested, there was resounding approval. “You need a certain measure of passion in order to keep it perfectly balanced,” he admits. And then he reflects: “We pride ourselves in what we do here for our clientele. This haute service we provide is a living thing. “
“Being in a residential area, our hours for lunch extend from noon to 4:30 pm and dinner from 5 pm to 10 pm. Since the neighborhood has gotten familiar with us from the time that we opened in mid-November of 2015, we fill about 20 to 25 of our tables for lunch.”
But it’s time to find out more about the establishment before we explore what and who motivate it.
Theo’s restaurant and Oyster Bar no doubt is the jewel in the crown of the Trump building, the north-western corner of which it occupies, its façade a continuous pane of glass. Entering from Third Avenue, one can’t help but be awed by the arrangement and color scheme. Done in shades of gray with accents of black, the 60-seat dining room comes alive with its overhead, oversized antique acid etched mirrors placed side by side in a slanted position on all three sides except that of the entrance. One such mirror located over the open kitchen which lies below has the oyster bar menu etched on it!
Chandeliers known by the name of Soscik dangle in the center of the high ceilinged room and on the right side where the semi-circular slate-topped bar of the same gray shade is located and where a skylight above lets some of the outside light in. Columns rising from the floor towards the ceiling are also covered with the same shade slate.
The air of sophistication extends as well in the spot where the bright and interactive open kitchen in the rear wall, complete with special counter seating along with a tasting menu, prepared exclusively by the establishment’s Executive Chef wait for the connoisseurs of quality seafood. A set of dark gray curtains adorn either side of the open kitchen.
The coziness and comfortability that dominate in this 60-seat room is due largely to the genius of young Theo who not only has designed the space but took pains in making sure that every piece of furniture is in the proper place. The seats, covered with black leather are a perfect match for the light gray tables, each decorated an exotic flower and a lit candle. This is a setting where ambience is prevalent without the slightest of doubts.
Theo’s is open seven days a week offering a Saturday and Sunday brunch using individualistic brunch dishes such as Lobster Eggs Benedict and much more in the same order as well drinks that will amaze the most knowledgeable imbiber.
The menu here, purely focusing on fish and seafood, is the proud labor of the Culinary team of the Executive Chef Nicholas Poulmentis, that concentrates on sourcing the highest quality local, organic and sustainable products whenever and wherever possible. He follows the 20th Century Molecular Gastronomy cooking sous-vide, which is healthy cooking to perfection.
A gleaming example of this, though basically iconoclastic in nature is the New Style Ceviche, a Poulmentis recipe currently being tried at Theo’s. After cutting out the Oyster Scallop shell and washing it, you stuff it with Tomato, Serrano Pepper, micro-Cilantro and Cayenne pepper. Then you top it with the Scallop, add breadcrumbs and broil it for three minutes.
Typical dishes in its Dinner menu are Steamed or Grilled Maine Lobster w/ Butter Lemon Sauce, (priced per lb,)
Seared Yellowfin Tuna Steak Cut On a Bed of Haricot Vert, Grilled Organic Salmon w/ Truffled Cauliflower Purée & Sautéed Baby Spinach, Grilled Australian Lamb Chops Served w/ French Fries, Stuffed Lobster w/ 90% Blue Crab 2LB Lobster, Blue Crab Homemade Linguini w/ Flambé Blue Crab Meat in a Light White Wine Sauce, Homemade Linguini Fruit de Mar w/ Scallops, Clams, Shrimp, Lobster Flambé Ouzo Reduction in Red Sauce and Sea Salt Crust For Two For Any 2+ LB Whole Fish. From the whole fish selection section, you can chose Branzino, Royale Dorade, Black Sea Bass, Red Snapper or Fagri.
The 40-year-old Poulmentis who uses the latest techniques on garnishing and food production, was born at 11/16/1975 at the Memorial Hospital in New York, United States, but was taken to Greece to his native Kythera at the age of one and a half. He grew up there and attended school, eventually joining culinary schools like the Culinary Art of Xenia in Anavysos, a 6-month stint in Cordon Bleu, France, and 6- months in Art of Post in Naples, becoming a challenging chef. In his thirties, Poulmentis bought a restaurant and a hotel naming both Cengo.
Due to the prevailing economy in his native land, Poulmentis at the age of 40 and after 37 years in his native land was forced to lease his commercial property in Kythera and seek a better life in the United States with his wife Diana, his 6-year-old daughter Nefeli and his six month-old son Nick Jr.
He sought employment at a Greek restaurant called Kellari Taverna where he worked in related establishments such as Blue Olive Market from 2013 to 2015 and was invited for private session cooking twice in the White House in April 2014 with Jacques Pepin, Peter Xavier Kelly and Daniel Boulud.
Nicholas Poulmentis, a likeable, down-to-earth individual who’s immersed into his business, has a culinary Demo on line created by NGTV in 2015. He says he is involved currently with a NY State Government project called Fed Cup under the aegis of NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo which administers culinary schooling for ex-cons, alcoholics and other fringe individuals. Chefs take turns once a month to instruct these individuals in the culinary arts until they are ready to graduate. Poulmentis participates fully in this project giving freely of his time. “It is a wonderful project, a good one to be involved in,” he asserts.
“Our food is all prepared in-house,” adds Manager Dean Kaltsas. “Ninety percent of the fish we use is wild, meaning it doesn’t come from farms. The fish is always fresh, charcoal-grilled in a healthy way in sea-crust. It is our signature. And let’s not forget the large collection of oysters available here,” adds Kaltsas. “Can you name them?”
The naming is left to the young proprietor, Theo Katsichtis who just walked into the conversation.
“Yes, we have plenty of varieties in our oyster bar for our guests to try. They come from all over the world and they are called Hama-Hama, Chef Creek, Bon Sole and Oyster Scallop from the Pacific.
“What about dessert?” reminds Peter Katsichtis, young Theo’s father and mentor.
“Yes, indeed” answers Chef Poulmentis. “We’ve got this aphrodisiac in the shape of yogurt made of sheep or goat milk that tastes as a spectacular dessert when you add honey or marmalade. Its taste is a world apart from the usual yogurt. Perhaps Peter wants some to get enticed to tell us how he got the concept for Theo’s.”
“Well, maybe not that,” says Peter, “but the idea of something close to nature. The food makes the presentation, with a fantastic color scheme, the fish, the onion-everything pops out-worldwide Seafood-Mediterranean touch. Carabiniero Shrimp, South African Oyster Scallops. King Prawns. Baby Scallops inside a half shell. All is available here.”
“It’s a long way from London and politics” quips Theo as he dips a crab’s leg into some hot sauce. And from Politics to Culinary Arts.”
Following dad in his footsteps is a good thing but sometimes is hard to do. You must assimilate. You must like it. You must immerse yourself into the depths of the intricate business and marry it. You have to give yourself unconditionally, be part of the business if you want to be successful. And this is the story at Theo’s. The young man moved from politics to the culinary arts following his father and has immersed himself wholly knowing that this is the way to success. And he has tasted success in the brief months of his commercial existence and there’s nowhere else to go from here but upward.
In the tradition of his father moving from the legendary Viand on Lexington Avenue to Astro, to the Park Avenue Café and the Art Café on Broadway, so will the son make his mark in the great borough of Manhattan. The concept may have been that of Peter, but the heart of the operation is Theo as the name is emblazoned on the outside of one of the Trump choice buildings on Third Avenue.