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Kellari Taverna

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Kellari Taverna

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Address: 19 West 44th St (5th & 6th Aves)
City: New York, NY
Zip: 10036
Phone: (212) 221-0144
Fax: (212) 221-0188
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Map: Map
Cuisine: Greek
Area: West 40s
Entree Price: $20-25


If you need further proof of how far Greek cuisine has come from spanikopita and souvlaki, you need only sample the sophisticated fare at Kellari Taverna, the remarkably beautiful – and decidedly large - restaurant that recently moved into the former Torre di Pisa space on West 44th Street. Executive chef Peter Spiropoulous covers many of the familiar bases with his menu, but goes above and beyond with unusual takes on Hellenic favorites (such as four variations on saganaki, the beloved flaming cheese). Better still, all of these dishes can be paired with an extraordinary selection of Greek wines. (There are over 250 wines on hand, including vintages from around the world). How different is the fare at Kellari? Even something as usually mundane as the potato/garlic dip known as skordalia gets a 21st century twist with the addition of pumpkin and almond. (You can order it on its own or as part of the Pikilia assortment of dips, which are pleasing if unremarkable.) Instead of grilling octopus with oil and garlic, Spiropoulous gives the sea creature a barbecued feel through the use of red wine must – and the result is quite tender and utterly delicious. My favorite starter, however, were translucently raw scallops marinated in natural grape juice, topped with crushed pistachios, and set atop a yogurt dressing. It was simultaneously light and mouthfilling. Only whole sardines stuffed with walnuts, raisins, and olives proved somewhat disappointing (and rather difficult to eat). Like many of the city’s haute Greek eateries, the entrée emphasis is on simply grilled whole fish, and Kellari passes the test with flying colors, based on our sampling of delicious lavraki (loup de mer), which is helpfully filleted by the kitchen. Carnivores will be equally delighted by three of the largest lamb chops I’ve ever seen, which arrived perfectly rare and full of flavor. The fish is served without accompaniment, but the portion of tasty-enough oregano-scented home fries that came with the lamb chops was big enough to satisfy a table of diners. The innovations continue through the dessert menu, which features a chocolate and halvah soufflé and one dish with something called orange spoon sauce. But a simple dish of homemade yogurt with wild honey, sour cherries, and Greek Mountain tea sauce is as good as it gets. Reinventing the wheel can be nice, but isn’t always necessary.

Review By: Brian Scott Lipton