January 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, ABF!

ABF's birthday falls right in the middle of January, when it's usually cold and dreary and bitter outside. I wanted to find a warm, welcoming spot where we could celebrate his birthday, eat delicious food, and just have a great time.

Mediterranean food is a favorite of both of ours, so when I found Kellari Taverna was close by and offering a killer Restaurant week menu, I moved it to the top of my list. When my coworker, C, raved about their food, it rocketed up to #1.

Restaurant Week is a great time to try places you might not normally splurge on (set courses for 24.07 at lunch and $35 for dinner), but the truth about RW is that many restaurants offer some of their cheaper dishes (and often in much smaller portions) and you don't always get a broad representation of their offerings. Kellari is the polar opposite. What an impressive selection!

Perhaps just as impressive is Kellari's wine list, full of wines from Greece and elsewhere. We went along with one gentleman's recommendation for a full-bodied red: this Lion d'Or Cabernet Sauvignon from Macedonia. It was a bit sweet-tasting at first, but it was just lovely and delicious. I'm going to look for this on my next trip to the wine store.

Their house bread was a tangy sourdough and I immediately devoured two pieces, alternately slathering them with the house hummus (complimentary along with olives and radishes) or dipping them in the house olive oil (tangy but not too bitter). Our second batch was so full of rosemary that I passed on it.

ABF's appetizer was the smoked trout with a farro & arugula salad. It was tasty, and the arugula salad was a nice complement, but it was about to get schooled by the awesomeness of MY appetizer.

I chose the scallops with pomegranate risotto. Deeeelicious. Forget it! ABF took one bite and had a rare case of order envy (usually it's the other way around with us)! This was creamy, tangy, tart, and so delicious. The pomegranate juice gave the rice a deep purple color and just a touch of sweetness.

For his entrée, ABF ordered the beef tenderloin. That surprised me--I thought he would go for their signature grilled fish, but he was in a red meat mood. Also surprising? How delectable and tender said loin was! For a place that focuses on fish, they sure do make a tasty tenderloin, too! It came with Brussels sprouts and sliced red grapes--I still loathe the sprouts, but when put together with the melty beef and the tart grapes, it all went together quite deliciously.

My entrée was the grilled lavraki, a Mediterranean sea bass that you may also know as branzino, and it was out of this world. They serve it whole and deboned. To call it succulent seems insufficient. I didn't even spritz any lemon juice on this. The capers, tender fish, and fresh parsley were just meant to be together...and meant to end up in my belly. Well played, Kellari, well played.

Kellari's Restaurant Week menu is three courses, and my dessert pick was for the chocolate pyramid. It was the densest, richest, most intense little chocolate pyramid.

It came with a mastiche ice cream, but I did not care for the flavor at all. It was too ... off-putting. We did a quick google and apparently mastiche comes from the mastic (root for the word 'masticate' I love words #nerdalert) tree in Greece. It tasted a bit plasticky to me, though it did have a borderline minty flavor to it, but ABF enjoyed it. The hazelnut pirouline (stick-shaped cookie) was divine. I only gave ABF a little bite of that. ;)

What ABF enjoyed even more, however, was his dessert: walnut cake with fig gelato. You heard me: fig gelato. Wow. The walnut cake was fine, but when you draped it in the velvety scoop of fig gelato, forget it.

I said something along the lines of "It's like a fig died and went to heaven IN MY MOUTH." Imagine the best part of a fruity Fig Newton, now turned into a creamy, cold, delicious cloud. Le sigh.

So long story short, we'd go back for the scallops, the grilled fish, the beef, and the gelato. Oh yes, and the wine! Oh, and the homemade bread! You get the idea. I think we just added a new restaurant to our "Favorites" list. If you're looking for a delicious meal, excellent service every step of the way, and an extensively impressive Restaurant Week menu. Go now while the deals are still ablaze!

Kellari Taverna
19 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 221-0144

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