Friday, March 31, 2017


Queens is so far.   (I might be being lazy.)  But Greek food... great Greek food- has been elusive to me in Manhattan.  Milos is a price gouge, totally overrated even taking price out of the equation.  My meal at Pylos was just plain bad, and Periyali was ho-hum at best.  My finest experiences had been via Michael Psilakis, but the one I loved the best (Anthos, now closed) was more upscale Greek-influenced, and his Tavernas now are just as far as the lauded places in the bastion of Greek dining, the aforementioned Queens.  So when I learned that the esteemed Taverna Kyclades had a location in the East Village (and has, for three years now!  Where have I been?), a visit was paid that very night, 'cause like I said, Queens is FAR.  (Or whatever.)

The E.V. location is small - small, crowded and noisy.  Simple design and a white-washed color scheme function to open up the space as much as possible, but they are packing up as many diners per square foot as they possibly can, which makes for a somewhat obstreperous atmosphere.  But even in cramped quarters, the quality lacks for nothing, and when the food is good enough, a lack of elbow room imparts a family-style appeal that is conducive to the simple, sincere menu.

Starting off with a Greek salad is a great decision, chunky, crisp cukes and surprisingly flavorful tomatoes for March features a honking slab of creamy, crumbly herb-flecked feta, doused with a slug of grassy olive oil and a few grinds of salt and pepper was all it needed.  Oh, it's plonked with just enough briny black olives to add a little funk, but I'm not an olive fan to my tablemate capitalized on both of our shares.

Do not miss the octopus, two fat tentacles tender and juicy, with a robustly smoky char.  A liberal squeeze of lemon unleashes the fest flavor, and although plates here are primarily intended for spring, I honestly wonder if I couldn't have finished the whole thing solo had I not been anticipating sampling some more of the menu still to come.  Like a side of Horta, deemed dandelion greens by the menu, server, and my dining companion, but girl knows her greens!!  And that was chard.  Which is really neither here nor there , but one should get their veggies straight.  (Plus, I like being right.). It's a big plate of roughage, though, probably enough for three or four, even as voraciously as I consume plant matter.  Sauteed tender waith and allium punch and just a subtle brace of acidity, they actually paired
 swimmingly with some leftover feta from the salad.   Couple of slices of the soft grilled bread provided with some Horta plus feta would make a fine lunch.

Just a curiosity more than a hunger inspired one more dish, which is pretty phenomenal considering that octopus was an appetizer, plus the Horta a side: you're getting a lot of bang for your buck.  I mean, it's not cheap: that octo-ppetizer is almost $25.  But with the enormity of the dishes, we could've easily gotten out of there at just over sixty bucks for the two us, with a nice little glass of house wine to boot.  But explorers are we, and the recommended stuffed clams were a great addition. Don't dive right into this when served or you'll take off a layer from the roof of your mouth, but sprit with lemon and enjoy the buttery, garlicky oceanic perfume before indulging in the sumptuous little bite-on-the-half-shell.  They're stuffed generously enough to almost require two bites, but there's no need for daintiness here: go ahead and wolf it.  There are all
 the fresh fish of the day options as well, priced in that typical by-the-pound whole-fish method, which can get pricier.  But you needn't go that route to have a fantastic repast, although the fish is as fresh as this city could ever provide and the kitchen cooks it expertly to your specifications, served with a choice of horta, beets, french fries, rice, or lemon potatoes.

The menu doesn't mention dessert, but order a coffee or ouzo to finish, and out comes a cinnamon-dusted custard, delicately crusted in a gossamer layer of filo.  It's creamy and cool, reminiscent of a light flan or rice-less rice pudding, and not too sweet.

If the original Kyclades in Queens is any better, I'd be happy, now in the know, to make the cross-borough commute.  But if they're comparable as I'm thinking they probably are, I'm happy to save my next swipe to go visit chef Psilakis.

 228 First Avenue
tel. (212)432-0011

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