Monday, February 2, 2009

So Much Kefi in the Air

Chef-owner Michael Psilakis and co-owner Donnatella Arpaia recently relocated their Greek restaurant to a new, larger Upper West Side location. I hadn't heard of the restaurant when it lived on West 79th St, but since it moved, it has been receiving a ton of press and reviews. From what I've seen, critics have welcomed the changes that accompanied the move, but diners haven't quite fallen back in love with it yet. And, I have to say, without seeing the greatness of the former location, I can definitely see that there are a few things that need to be worked on.

The decor of Kefi is trying to feel "quaint, Greek kitchen," but most of the space on the main level seems bare...blank white walls with the occasional cluster of blue and white plates or fake blue window shutters. When I went downstairs to use the restroom, I peeked around a little, and noticed how much better the ambiance was. There are three areas for dining. So, when you make your reservation (which they just started accepting, and I highly recommend making), try to specify that you'd like to sit downstairs, or at least in the back. The front area near the bar is insanely cramped between too many tables, people waiting for their table, and people drinking at the bar.

Luckily, ME and I were seated in the back area and had a nice table that wasn't completely on top of the ones next to us. Fresh bread and olive oil were brought out immediately, and the waiter was soon to follow asking for our drink order. We went with a nice bottle of Greek wine. After that, we didn't see the waiter for a while...all the waitstaff and busboys seemed to be running around like crazy. Not sure if that's because they're still trying to work out a new system in a new space, or if that's just how they operate.

When he finally returned, we decided it was probably a good idea to place the entire order, rather than just starting with appetizers. We decided to go start with two meze and ordered the highly recommended (thanks ER!) warm feta and the selection of spreads, both coming with fresh pita. The warm feta was served in a skillet along with tomatoes, capers, anchovy, peppers, and olives. I don't love the flavor of anchovy or olives, but this dish was out of this world. I was trying to remember if I had ever really had melted feta before, and when I tasted this dish, I knew I hadn't! All of the flavors complimented each other so well...savory, acidic, etc.


The foursome of spreads included what I know as tzatziki, hummus, babaganouj, and a "caviar" dip. The caviar is in quotes because the dish was marked as being vegetarian, so ME and I were trying to figure out if it was fake caviar or the real thing! The tzatziki was some of the best I've ever add...not to heavy, and a great, fresh cucumber flavor. The hummus was really good, a classic with a hint of roasted red pepper. Sometimes being too heavy on the mayo/cream, this babganouj was delicious. One of the runners asked if we wanted more pita, so of course we said yes. We later came to find that we were charged for it, but it was well worth it. By time we were done with the meze section of our meal, I think we probably each consumed 4 or 5 pitas. Oops!

For my entree (even though I was pretty full by this point!), I went with the striped bass. It came pan seared with green beans, roasted potatoes, capers, and olives. The fish was well-flavored, but the piece was pretty skimpy and not the best cut. ME ordered the sheep's milk dumplings with spicy lamb sausage, tomatoes, and pine nuts. I don't eat lamb, but ME said it was very spicy. I did try the dumplings with the sauce though, and they were absolutely delicious.

Many of the reviews noted the inexpensive prices of Kefi's menu, and they were right. We had all of that food, a nice bottle of wine, tip, and tax for under $100. Most of the entrees come in under $15.

I found out that Kefi is a hard-to-translate word that has been described by various Greeks as meaning passion, enthusiasm, high spirits, or frenzy. After dining here, I think the name is very fitting. You can sense the passion behind the cooking, and you can feel the frenzy (between the waiters and loud diners) in the dining area.

Kefi
505 Columbus Avenue
b/t 84th & 85th Streets
website
Menu Pages listing

1 comment:

Marc said...

Def worth the money. And since you have too much class to mention it, I will:

Senor Swanky's $1 Miller Light draft's next door adds a post-Kefi party!