Periyali: Ancient Greek
On Monday night, two coworkers and I supped at Periyali, a well-known and well-respected Greek restaurant in Flatiron. Through my trolling of restaurant blogs and reviews, I had heard good things about this classic Greek mainstay. Unfortunately, I must say that I was unimpressed.
The restaurant was…cute. It was by no means swank or elegant or cozy, really. I felt like I was sitting in a grandmother’s kitchen with frilly pink and green hangings, white cottage wood chairs. and bright lighting. As a young cosmopolitan, this wasn’t exactly my scene. Not to say that I don’t love cozy restaurants, but there wasn’t any pizzazz here. On the upswing, it did seem to have a lovely garden with limited seating in the back.
The crowd was old. I’m going to just put it bluntly. Old. I think we were the youngest diners in the restaurant by almost 30-40 years. I think this certainly colored my experience as all conversations around us seemed to be carried out either in a dull hush or a deafening cackle.
Now, all of this could have been ameliorated if the food was as out-of-this-world as I had heard it was. Well, needless to say, it wasn’t. It was good in a I-would-pay-$20-for-this sort of way, but it is by no means the haute Greek cuisine for which it has been heralded. As it is restaurant week, I chose the $35 prix fixe while my two dining compatriots chose off the a la carte menu. I opted for the spinach pie, which ended up being the highlight of the night, the mousakas, and the walnut cake. My coworkers each got, respectively, the tomato and feta salad followed by the branzino, and the Greek meatballs followed by the chicken souvlaki.
The quality and taste of these dishes was all over the place. My spinach pie was delicious – not too dry, a perfect flaky crust, the right amount of cheese and butter. My mousakas on the other hand was sickeningly sweet. Everything was mushy and seemed to be covered in nutmeg and cinnamon. The texture and bizarrely sweet flavor made me feel a bit queasy before dessert got to the table. As for dessert, everyone agreed that the walnut cake was scrumptious – moist, nutty, and not-too-sweet. Unfortunately, I was so food coma-ed by the previous course that I couldn’t enjoy the cake at all.
The meatballs were fairly tasty, yet I’m fairly sure I could replicate them exactly in my apartment, for half the price. They weren’t anything special or unique; in fact, my very American mother could make these very ‘Greek’ meatballs with her hands tied behind her back. The chicken souvlaki was well-seasoned, but I was fully aware that I could get something equally delicious on the street for 1/5 of the price. The branzino appeared to be the stand-out; although, because of my aversion to fish, I can’t comment on it specifically.
All in all, Periyali was unimpressive. The atmosphere was quaint yet stuffy, cloistered and antiquated. The food was fine and not worth the exorbitant price. This is somewhere to take grandparents who are unwilling to explore the more thrilling aspects of the New York culinary scene; otherwise, young folk, I would steer clear!