Somehow, was in my (never ending)mental index of restaurants to try, and last week, its number came up.
As I descended the steps of a Flatiron area building, I entered into a large, elegant dining room. Graced with billowing fabric, wall hangings evoking the sea, and whitewashed furniture, the mood was undeniably Greek and inevitably charming. Almost as charming as our server, who, upon discussing the menu with us, snatched it out of our hands and proceeded to do all the ordering for us. Shrinking violets may not do well here…this server was a hoot and a half, and he really appreciates a table that likes to banter and loves to eat.
Sampler Plate with Taramosalata, Melitzanosalata, Tzatziki Salad, Fava Kremidaki,Spanakopita, Tiropita, and Kolokithokeftedes
Taramosalata – whipped cod roe dip. It sounds freaky, and often it is – fishy, and iodine-y, and gross. This is none of those things. Whipped with creamy feta cheese until it is light as air and just vaguely briny. Not at all fishy, just fresh and salty, like the sea air.
Melitzanosalata - grilled eggplant puree. Velvety, earthy, and garlicky. An eggplant lover’s dream.
Tzatziki Salad – cucumber and dill dip. Creamy with yogurt, herbal, and a welcoming mild component of the flavor-packed plate.
Fava Kremidaki - pureed yellow split peas with red onion, lemon and olive oil. A cross between hummus and lentil soup. Hearty, pleasantly grainy, lightened with bright lemon and fruity olive oil. Delicious with the crispy pita wedges.
Spanakopita - feta and spinach pie. Flaky dough surrounding molten, sharp cheese and spinach.
Tiropita - cheese pie. Slightly sweet and creamy on the inside. The Greek version of blintzes.
Kolokithokeftedes – zucchini fritter. As light and flavorful as latkes, with the natural sweetness of zucchini. Delightful when dunked in the tzatziki.
*note that this isn’t on the menu. Our server suggested he put together an appetizer plate for us, and I feel confident that if you were to ask for a house-selected appetizer plate, you would get a similarly excellent selection.*
These Greek meatballs stewed in tomato sauce were the best meatballs I have had since Alta. So subtle and intricate – the meat is tender and the spices were incredibly varied. I tasted cinnamon, fennel, garlic, and I don’t know what else in there. Sweet, savory, aromatic, slightly sour…these are addictive.
Charcoal grilled, red wine marinated octopus that we were assured was the restaurant’s specialty. And it is. The octopus is incredibly tender – it really cuts like a piece of swordfish, barely needing a knife. The taste is not at all seafood-y. It is meaty and light, like a piece of pork tenderloin. It has a slightly charred exterior surrounding its meaty interior, and the light lemony butter sauce served over it brings a layer of acidity to the dish.
Walnut Cake, Orange Cake and Greek Cookies were all very tasty, but really…go straight for the orange cake. The other things are good, but this is unbelievable. It tastes like it is made with cornmeal, and has the light, pliant texture of angel food cake. It is soaked in a viscous, vibrant syrup made of honey and oranges that transports you straight to summer. Sweet, light, and a perfect way to end a pretty perfect Greek meal.
Periyali is a delight. Fantastic service, delicious food, and with a 3 course dinner prix fixe of $35 (which I did not try), what’s not to love? The portions are ample and the octopus is especially amazing (though I can’t wait to try the moussaka next time,which the table next to us tried – it smelled positively intoxicating).
With a restaurant this great, does it really matter who told me about it?
Just remember who’s telling YOU about it.