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Posts from the ‘greek’ Category

Kefi: Gussied-up Greek Food for a Gussied-up Crowd

When it comes to Greek restaurants in which you can sit down, enjoy a glass of wine, and have a classy meal, the options in New York are surprisingly slim. A few options come to mind, including Snack Taverna, Pylos, Estiatorio Milos, and Kefi, the latter of which is reviewed here. Advertised as serving ‘rustic Greek’ cuisine, Kefi is a product of a partnership between celebrity chefs Donatella Arpaia and Michael Psilakis. It is meant to emulate a Greek taverna and to evoke the laidback je ne sais quoi of the Greek lifestyle.

The 200-seat restaurant just north of the Museum of Natural History offers a clean and prissy spin on a seaside Greek taverna. The cool blue and bright white color palette is immediately evocative of the Greek islands. Smooth stone floors, white stucco walls, neat arrangements of blue-and-white dinner plates, and textured beams work to give the illusion of rusticity, while a massive complicated wave mosaic reminds diners that they’re still in one of the more expensive zip codes in Manhattan. Periwinkle blue faux window shutters seem to ask patrons to imagine that if they were to be cracked open slightly the soft warm breeze of the Adriatic would waft through instead of the trash odors from the neighboring alleyway. The whole look is convincingly enough Mediterranean to be cool, calm and relaxed.

The food is traditionally Greek, consisting of ‘favorites from Chef Psilakis’ childhood.’ The menu offers a bewildering array of options, all at exceedingly reasonable prices, ranging from small plates to sandwiches to pastas to large entree plates. The quality of the food is uneven, ranging from very delicious to down-right disappointing. On the one hand, the meatballs, unfortunately pegged as the house specialty, were served lukewarm and under-salted; though the mildly spicy tomato and garlic sauce was flavorful, the actual meatballs lacked punch and were ultimately underwhelming. On the other, the simple warm fingerling potato starter with string beans, feta, and olives was balanced and delicious with well-cooked cuts of boiled potato and salty bits of fresh feta cheese. The entrees were similarly disparate with a scrumptious pork souvlaki and a almost inedible flat pasta dish with braised rabbit. The souvlaki sandwich was served in a fresh, warm, and doughy pita with juicy pork cuts and a plethora of crisp vegetables – refreshingly simple. The flat pasta with braised rabbit was peculiar with long, broad and overcooked noodles baked into crockware with moist braised rabbit and Graviera cheese; it had an off-putting sour aftertaste and an almost nauseating ‘cheese gone bad’ aroma.

Although I personally prefer my Greek food in styrofoam take-out containers and despite inconsistent cuisine, Kefi offers great value for the Upper West Side. If you know what to order, Kefi delivers top-notch grub in a lovely environment at surprisingly low prices for Manhattan. It’s the ideal neighborhood go-to for families and young couples or a must-try destination spot for Greek Freak foodies.

Perfect For: young professional couples seeking inexpensive yet tasty full-service restaurants, Greek Freaks, celebrity chef chasers, Upper West Side neighborhood foodies

Kefi on Urbanspoon

Snack Taverna: Greek Food Gone Gorgeous

Greek food for me has always meant Philly fast food joints, gyros, diners, and tsatziki-dressed street meat. Snack Taverna, a charming neighborhood spot on Bedford Street, belies these low brow stereotypes, bringing ethereal Greek cuisine to some of Manhattan’s pickiest eaters, in the West Village. The sister restaurant to Snack, a 5-table Greek restaurant in Soho, Snack Taverna expands upon Snack’s concept of tasty and sophisticated Greek food that walks the line between authentically traditional and modern.

Snack Taverna looks just like many other West Village spots. Located in a light-filled corner space, nudged between quaint residential buildings, the charming and cheery eatery features simple rustic touches like bowls of fruit, tiers of desserts, flower sprigs, basic wooden tables set for 52, cups instead of wine glasses, and a small intimate bar. Rich burgundy walls offset glinting mirrors and petite scenic photographs. Each table is adorned sparsely with a flickering tealight candle. The look is casually elegant, upscale but not stuffy, a neighborhood spot you could just wander into easily.

What’s perhaps most surprising about Snack Taverna is the astonishing quality of the food. This is no place for culinary lightweights. The part small plate/part large entree menu exhibits range, skill, and a deep understanding of classic Greek techniques and flavors. With so many options, it’s remarkably difficult to choose just a few for your meal. Start with one of the creamy dips, served with pita; the Taramosalata, a thick and rich carp roe, lemon, and scallion dip, and the Skordalia, a smooth garlicky delight, far surpass the traditional bread & butter. Then? Share a salad. A sweet and savory watermelon feta summer special is particularly bright and fresh, so much so that it almost makes you forget the stifling heat outside.
Looking for something more substantial? Move on to the succulent lamb stifado, a crockpot of moist braised lamb, stewed in tomatoes, citrus yogurt, and onions, or the petite veal meatballs, served in a red wine reduction and citrus yogurt. Hungrier still? Pick from one of the large plates. You can’t go wrong with the oven roasted leg of lamb, simultaneously hearty and refreshing with tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, and a zucchini fritter. For some true Mediterranean tastes, opt for the sweet red pepper stuffed with greek fava, oyster mushrooms, herbed rice, and a spicy sauce or perhaps the juicy pan-seared chicken with tart olives, sweet golden raisins, and chickpeas. The food at Snack Taverna is a study in complex layered flavors, all of which magically transport you to a restaurant on the beach of a fragrant Greek island.
In a city with so much Italian and French cuisine, Snack Taverna is a refreshing change of pace. Infrequently do you find a restaurant that showcases how elegant and complex Greek cuisine can be while maintaining a casually luxe and immensely likable atmosphere. Toss that tsatziki aside, and give some real Greek food a whirl.
Perfect For: those seeking something different, neighborhood eats, first dates, an unusual brunch, freaks for Greek food
Snack Taverna on Urbanspoon

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!

Periyali on Urbanspoon