I joke about the Upper West Side being a culinary desert.
And, I mean, it ain’t no East Village.
But it is Shangri-La compared to Yorkville.
That’s why when we headed over to dinner with our friends, I was expecting a diner or a chain restaurant, or perhaps ordering in.
What I got was a very pleasant suprise.
Yefsi is a large, airy Mediterranean restaurant that honestly seems way too breezy and modern to be in this part of town. It’s the sort of relaxed place you can come for a quick lunch in jeans but it’s nice enough to attend on a date. It has a long bar with high chairs (with backs in case you sway a bit from too much ouzu) and a deceptively large dining room.
Greek salad done right – no watery iceberg lettuce here. The tomatoes are thick and impossibly ripe with sweet, acidic juices. The olives are juicy and meaty, and the cucumber, green peppers, and onion, complete the salad. Oh yeah…and the feta is no slouch either. It’s creamy and salty but not at all bitter or chalky like lesser fetas are. The dressing is bright and fruity, flecked with thyme and pepper.This is the ideal way to start a meal.
Kind of mind blowing, and this is why: dill and scallions. These gigantes are large, creamy butter beans in a tangy tomato sauce. Unlike other gigantes, they are loaded with sharp, crunchy scallions and fragrant sprigs of dill. These two ingredients add a really fresh, verdant quality to the stew-like dish. They are little touches that totally make the dish stand out.
This plate of spreads is tasty, but overpriced. The standout dip is the spicy feta. It is the red dip and it is creamy, a little briny, and has a slow building heat that really makes my upper lip break out in sweat. The tzatziki is also good if not groundbreaking. The pita is fine, but ask for more of the complimentary house made bread and garlicky hummus if you really want the best carb in the house.
Sadly, the meal ended on a so-so note. This fish is usually moist and silky, but this one is chalky and a little meager at that.(That old joke of “the food was terrible…and there was so little of it!). Though I was asked what side dish I wanted, none came. True, I had filled up on too much of the appetizers and bread to really care, but I still noticed. Also, the fish is not well seasoned – it needs acid and a little salt. The moussaka I tried is a better bet.
Yefsi really is better than what I expected. It isn’t a destination meal and the food is a little overpriced, but as far as Yorkville goes, it’s almost great. The atmosphere is lovely, service is prompt, and some of the appetizers are really stellar. Go for a selection of mezzes and you will be pleased.
Yorkville, I didn’t know you had it in ya.