Making it on America’s Biggest Block

With its expansive white interior and hints of color, Limani aims for grandeur and sophistication, eschewing typical nautical design elements.
With its expansive white interior and hints of color, Limani aims for grandeur and sophistication, eschewing typical nautical design elements. limani

Limani, an elegant Mediterranean restaurant that opened in November in Rockefeller Plaza, thrives on simplicity. Named for the Greek word for seaport, Limani differentiates from myriad seafood restaurants in New York City with its commitment to authentic Greek cooking styles and stunning décor.

Guests enter Limani through a ribbed, dark wood entrance that replicates the hull of a ship. A gleaming expanse of white in the marble floors, sandstone columns, and leather furniture contrasts the brown fabric partitions that mimic fishing nets and flow from the ceiling.

“Everything we use here has meaning,” says general manager Franco Sukaj, who started with Limani in 2008 at its original Roslyn, New York, location.

The unquestionable centerpiece of the space is a 12-foot-square bubbling reflecting pool, framed in white onyx. A sculpture depicting a school of 250 fish hangs from the ceiling, spiraling down toward the pool. Envisioned by Yianni Skordas, principal of the Skordas Design Studio, the restaurant’s Mediterranean inspiration is clear, creating a dramatic atmosphere in the 8,000-square-foot space, which seats 200.

The menu is simple and healthy, according to Executive Chef M.J. Alam. He joined Limani for the November opening after 18 years with Estiatorio Milos, which operates six Greek seafood restaurants internationally.

Chef Alam uses the traditional Greek method of grilling with a lemon and olive oil dressing, allowing the individual flavors of fish to prevail. This technique is distinctive even in Manhattan, Sukaj says, where chefs don’t always emphasize simplicity.

A colorful display of fish sits in front of the open kitchen, and attentive servers offer guests an up-close view of fresh catches before they order. Fish is served whole, often for two, and market priced by the pound. Limani works with one of the largest fish distributors in Portugal and buys mainly from there and Greece. But, in constant pursuit of variety, Chef Alam sources worldwide from Nova Scotia to Spain to New Zealand.

Sukaj says Limani’s owners had Midtown in mind when planning a second restaurant, and wanted the best location in the city. The two restaurants are fairly similar, Sukaj says, except for a more elegant design and different aesthetic in the Rockefeller space.

Chef Alam added a few dishes and modern touches for the Manhattan clientele, such as an expanded raw bar with organic salmon sashimi and tartare.

Perhaps the most distinctive dish on the menu is also exclusive to the Manhattan outpost. Kakavia, a traditional Greek fisherman’s soup, is made from a mix of three types of fish that varies seasonally but typically includes grouper, scorpion, and monkfish. The whole fish are cooked with potatoes, onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and saffron.

After cooking for about an hour, the soup is strained and served in three separate components at the table, Chef Alam says. The soup, which is meant to be shared and is offered only in the full size for $105, requires an hour’s notice to prepare.

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