Mandolin Aegean Bistro Owners Launch Organic Garden and Announce Plans for New Eatery, Poor Man's Lobster
At Mandolin Organic Garden, Ahmet Erkaya shades his eyes from the gleaming afternoon sun. He walks towards a young cranberry hibiscus plant and rapidly pulls a leaf from the vibrant violet-red herbage. He eagerly hands it over for me to sample. "He's completely obsessed with this plant," says his wife, Anastasia Koutsioukis.
Emily Codik Mandolin Organic Garden
The leaf has a shocking, clean, potent citrus flavor.
"It's served with single-origin Cretan extra virgin olive oil and a touch of fresh lemon juice. And a sprinkle of salt," says Erkaya.
Simple ingredients -- fresh ones, at least -- don't need anything else.
Three years ago, the couple opened Mandolin Aegean Bistro, the Buena Vista eatery known equally for its fresh fare and dainty setting.
But, on its menu, there are a couple of words that you will never find. These include "local", "farm-to-table", or "farm fresh". You won't see the lineage for the lamb or for the tomatoes printed anywhere, either. Erkaya and Koutsioukis prefer if ingredients speak for themselves.
Emily Codik A bucket full of hand-harvested organic greens from Mandolin Organic Garden
"We are not a chef-driven restaurant. We are an ingredient-driven restaurant," says Erkaya.
Emily Codik Mandolin Aegean Bistro owner Ahmet Erkaya harvests greens by hand about three times a week
It's a method that has brought them much success. In August, Mandolin expanded with an additional indoor seating option. In early October, the restaurant launched this garden project named the Mandolin Organic Garden.
"In my Greek grandmother's house, we always had a garden. Farm-to-table wasn't a trend. It was just the way we ate," says Koutsioukis.
The couple worked with local company, Ready To Grow Gardens, and transformed what was once an empty lot into a blossoming haven for leafy greens. The garden -- organized by coral rock beds -- is located behind the restaurant, with an entrance on NE 43rd Street.