Monday, December 14, 2009

Anthos Upstairs Review

Michael Psilakis might well be considered New York City's premier Greek chef and he has been working hard to steadily expand his reach. He has three restaurants in the city: Anthos, Kefi and Gus and Gabriel. His cookbook, "How to Roast a Lamb," was also released recently.

Earlier this year, he made a move that has become popular in the recession — he converted part of his expensive, upscale restaurant Anthos into a more casual and affordable mini-restaurant known as Anthos Upstairs. Everything on the menu is $15 or less and offers decent-sized portions.

I previously tried Anthos during Restaurant Week a couple of years ago and enjoyed a delicious, filling meal in an elegant setting. So, Anthos Upstairs seemed promising, extending upon the principle of good cooking at a lower price point. On the night I ate here, it wasn't exactly "upstairs" because that area was closed for a private party. But the restaurant was offering the Upstairs menu in the front bar area. This meal echoed my first experience — delicious and affordable in a modern, stylish atmosphere.

A complimentary set of Greek taramosalata made from different types of fish and served with pita chips. It's always nice when you feel like the restaurant isn't treating the bar customers like second-class citizens. This was a perfect starter, speaking to the restaurant's Greek influences.

Lamb burger with feta and spicy pepper puree and fried potatoes.
Tasty, but the bun was too big so the dish required a fork and knife. Fries were addictive.

Sheep milk ricotta dumpling with wild spinach, leek and feta.
These gnocchi-like dumplings were silky and rich, but perfectly done. The spinach was a good match.

Cod kourkourti with garlic potato puree and beets.
The breading was light and maybe not quite as crispy as I might have expected but the cod still tasted like fish, thankfully, and not like an unidentifiable greasy fried thing. The accompaniments were not my favorites - the garlic potato was chilled and very garlicky and the beet puree didn't have much flavor.

The service was friendly and efficient and when I pointed out to the waiter that he had left my glass of wine off the bill he said it was okay in a way that seemed to indicate it had been intentional. Not sure why, but it was a nice gesture. All in all, it was a lovely low-key dinner in a high-class setting.

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