251 Lex

251 Lexington Ave. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 218-8156 •  251lex.com

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I was excited to try this relative newcomer, which seemed to have promise from the outside looking in. Unfortunately, the promise only seems to be on the outside. In fact, the only nice thing I can say about the inside is that the people are nice. Oh, and the prices were pretty great, granted it was restaurant week, but only twelve dollars for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc is worthy of a star in and of itself.

Beyond the wine and the warm pita with olive oil, the restaurant falls short on virtually every other metric possible, coming off like a child’s doll house dressed up to play a game of restaurant. The kids, a.k.a. waiters, inside trying so hard to please that it’s almost charming, but when they keep spilling water everywhere and forgetting silverware, the charm wears thin.

In terms of grub, nothing was god awful, but if tepid is the response you’re looking for, then you’ve come to the right place. Starting with the oysters, they were probably the best thing of the night, clean and fresh, served with a beet mignonette that overpowers them, so I would skip it. And while we’re on the subject of skipping things, the kale Caesar salad was cream based, a major no-no, and blah based, also a no-no.

For entrees, the salmon with cracked bulgur struggled to even register a pulse, as did the signature octopus dish, served with Israeli couscous in a skillet that’s so friggin piping hot you could probably still use it as a kiln to bake ceramics after it cools down a touch.

With the writing already firmly on the wall, there was little dessert could do to sway my already solidified opinion and as one would expect, dessert did little to even try. The Greek yogurt and honey panna cotta with fig mostrada, while interesting in theory, proved par for the course in terms of taste. That said, I’m not the biggest panna cotta fan, so the fact that I didn’t hate it is a major coup for 251. And finally the gelati was also semi-decent in the most average sense possible, falling short of supermarket gems like Talenti and Steve’s.

And falling short was theme throughout. Short of expectations and hopes. Really not sure what people see in this place or why it has the crowd or reviews that it does, but I suppose I’ll chalk it up to the fact that people are easily fooled. Case in point, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president. Mic drop.

2 teeth

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Lefteris Gyro

190 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 242-8965 • lefterisgyro.com

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I have eaten at all three locations, Tarrytown, Mount Kisco and Yonkers (Ridge Hill), not so much because I am a Lefteris groupie, but more because I like a good gyro and no matter where you are in Westchester, Lefteris is never too far away. And while I wish I could regale you with stories of magnificently thin lamb shavings, sprinkled with pixie dust, the greatness of Lefteris is born more from the rules of supply and demand than any culinary hocus-pocus. Put plainly, they are the only game in town.

And currently Lefteris is winning that game 3-0, because all three locations appear to be doing a good business. Partly due to the kid friendly/family friendly vibe. And partly due to the insanely generous portions for bargain basement prices. When I have it delivered, one order of the gyro platter is enough to feed me for two nights, making it less than eight bucks a meal. Note to the penny pincher.

Please take the knife count below with a grain of salt though. The stuffed grape leaves are crap and you can find better spinach pie at Stew Leonard’s, but the pitas always come warm and the gyro meat and souvlaki seldom miss the mark- that mark being a very casual Greek fix. They’re definitely not trying to be MP Taverna (not that MP impressed me either). So recalibrate your expectations and go for some good, quick, cheap, Greek eatin’ and you’ll be happier than Socrates… before he drank the hemlock.

3 teeth

Periyali

35 W 20th St. New York, NY 10011(212) 463-7890periyali.com

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Having just been to Greece last summer I was entering with a healthy dose of “food tude.” Hey, I kinda like that. Ferocious Foodie TM!

And while décor and service failed to impress, the food rose above expectation. Not that the menu is anything inventive. Truth be told it’s all of the usual suspects from octopus to mousaka and souvlaki to baklava.

Our meal started off with an amuse bouche of sorts, a Greek bruschetta is about the only way I can describe it. Crostini topped with feta tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion. I’m not exactly sure why they offer it though. It’s not inventive, nor amazing. And if it’s simply to give you a little taste of something before your meal arrives, it would seem that the olives and bread would handily suffice. Instead, it only serves as a failed attempt to reach for a class of dining they simply aren’t.

After that we split a Greek salad that passed as ruffage and an octopus, which did everything it was supposed to, clean and simple and perfectly tender, yet somehow it just didn’t reach tentacle supremacy.

Oddly enough though, the whole branzino, while not too unlike the octopus, with its classic Mediterranean prep, proved to be spectacular! So flavorful and buttery. I haven’t loved a fish this much since Dory in Finding Nemo and I’ve had more than my fair share of whole fish, being that it’s practically the official meal of Turkey and I fancy myself to be an honorary Turk by association.

Bringing up the rear was the walnut cake and ice cream, which nosed out the baklava as our choice for dessert. In hindsight, I think I’d go baklava next time, because the walnut cake was a bit of a let down after experiencing the one at Gato. This one was a little on the dry side and desperately needed the ice cream to give it the moisture it was lacking.

On the boozy end of things, there are several tasty, affordable wine options and some on the pricier side well. We went with the Burnello, more on the pricier end, and it was excellent. Additionally, they complemented our dessert course with a complimentary dessert wine, which I also enjoyed.

All in all, I liked Periyali, but not enough to rush back. There are droves of better Mediterranean restaurants in the city and two right in the Flatiron alone, Almayass and Ilili, granted both of those are more middle eastern then Mediterranean, but the lines are so blurred between the two that it’s hard to tell where the tzatziki ends and the cacik begins.

3 teeth

Aqua Blu Café

Lambi Beach, Kos Town 85300, Greece • 30 22420 22440 • http://www.aquabluhotel.gr

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Kos is sort of like Daytona Beach with a speckling of Greek ruins. Touristy crap for sale in virtually every store and beaches out the whazoo. But if you know where to look, just like almost anywhere, there are diamonds in the rough. The Aqua Blu Hotel is that diamond in Kos.

Set apart from the main town and away from the touristy chaos, this beacon of modernity and style is a breath of fresh air. And the food here is a taste of fresh air?

Unfortunately their fine dining optoion, Cuvee is closed for lunch, but their café is nothing to sneeze at, boasting a nice bounty of delicious options, starting with their drinks and an inventive twist on a Pimm’s Cup, made with fresh cucumbers and strawberries, taking an already refreshing summer drink and making it even more so.

The bread is served with a delicious olive oil and a flavorful red pepper hummus. And I wish I could go on and on, but unfortunately we weren’t starving, so we each only had an entrée. No apps or dessert. But from what I can tell from my abbreviated sampling, they are probably good as well.

We had the grilled chicken salad with feta. Basic, but good for what it’s supposed to be.

And the other dish was the tagliatelle with octopus, tomato and olive. Flavor-wise it was very good. Presention-wise, however, they committed a cardinal sin, chopping up the pasta into tiny little squares. In fact the entire dish was like this. It was like the pasta version of the restaurant Chop’t. Oh well, at least it tasted good.

3 teeth

Tholos

Gialos | Port de Symi, dodécanèse, +30 2246072003 , Greece
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People seem to rave about the view here and while it is most certainly nice, it’s also not unlike virtually every other harbor-facing restaurant in the region, of which there are scads.

And as for the food, it’s just okay. Your typical Greek fare with no extreme twists or highs. Of the semi-highs, or should I say semi-high in the singular, was the rocket salad with Cretan cheese- soft and porous like Swiss, but earthy and grassy like grana. On the so-so side, the warm gigante bean salad with tomatoes, the fava bean puree and the tzatziki, which was a tad too garlicky.

Service was friendly and attentive as it seemed to be everywhere on the island, but the place really is nothing as special as the TripAdvisor crowd cracks it up to be.

2 teeth

The Windmill

Chorio, Symi, Greece • 69 55 97 36 95

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It’s worth all 400 steps that it takes to get there. Located in an old windmill, of course, perched high above the town. Sadly, only the cooks are actually inside the windmill itself. Patrons are seated in a small semi-circle of about a dozen tables around it. And while one might expect incredible views from such a height, it is much to the contrary. The tables all face toward the back street, which has its charms I suppose, if you like watching the locals pass by, along with a few street cats.

But what the mill lacks in view it makes up for in spades once the food hits the table, which admittedly can take a while. But when the food comes out this good, I’m happy to let them take their time. No need to rush to failure.

Not a single miss was served. The avocado hummus was wonderfully creamy and fresh. Blended to order and as good or better than anything I’ve ever had.

Doubling down on the chickpeas, we also got a spicy dish as well, seemingly Moroccan inspired and Greek nailed. One bite and you knew these ladies weren’t playing around. Same goes for the spicy steak and vegetables, only this dish seemed to garner its influence more from Thai cuisine. Loaded with such wonderful flavors I was willing to overlook that the meat was a bit on the overdone side.

And then came the crème de la crème, or should I say the crème de la prawn? Basking in a bourdon and saffron cream sauce these crustaceans practically evaporated from the plate. As did the sauce. Worth an order of bread unto itself just to sop it up.

Even dessert was sensational. The whiskey chocolate tart and the lemon cake were both so different, yet equally impressive at seducing their respective places on your tongue. Tart and sweet and texturally gratifying as well. The lemon cake almost had a nut or ricotta-like quality to it. I would’ve examined it further had I not been so busy scarfing it down.

Then came the shocker. The bill. But it’s not what you think. First of all, it’s VERY reasonable for such artistry. So that was a bit shocking. So was the fact that they don’t take credit cards and we were a touch low on Euros, even with the modest pricing. Luckily the owner was so nice he allowed us to pay through our hotel, otherwise I would still be washing dishes as opposed to typing this review.

5 teeth

Mythos

Symi Harbor 85600, Symi, Greece • +30 22460 71488
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We went here on a recommendation from our hotel, which claimed that the chef at Mythos was the “most consistent” in Symi. Well, we assumed he meant consistently good, but from what I could see, consistently chatty is more like it. He is perpetually fluttering from table to table like a social butterfly, meanwhile, his kitchen is churning out turd after turd.

Eleven courses we endured through the chef’s meze tasting, explained on the menu as the best of his best, and out of all eleven we only bothered to finish two. That’s not to say that all nine of the remainders sucked, but most of them did, with a few mediocre stragglers.

Of them, the spinach pie was by far the worst I have ever had. Like something you’d expect to find in a high school cafeteria. So soggy and lifeless his citizenship should almost be revoked for such a blight on Greek cuisine.

Next, a half notch up from shitsville was the shell stuffed with slop, or as they called it, shrimp and cheese. But it was so bland and over-cheesed that you could barely find the miniscule frozen shrimps hidden within in its mediocrity. Needless to say this was another one bite and done dish.

Working our way further through the chef’s tour de farce, we had a underwhelming mousaka and an equally prosaic lamb with rosemary.

Even the bookends of the meal were tragic. The bread was a touch stale, the salad was limp and over-dressed and both desserts tasted like bricks of cream. One marginally flavored with lemon. The other with banana.

But to be fair, the eggplant dish with sweet potato and berry jam, as well as the seafood risotto, were both relatively good. Then again, McDonald’s is relatively gourmet when you are relatively starving in the desert.

The only things that rose to a level of great were the rooftop setting, which has a pleasant view overlooking the harbor, the wait staff who was friendly and attentive, the kalamata olives, which the chef obviously doesn’t make, but rather purchases and then pulls out of a jar to serve and finally the lamb kebab with a spicy sweet sauce and tzatziki. Congratulations. I guess in Stockholm he learned that if you throw enough darts at the board eventually one of them is bound to hit. That said, even the kebab was dry and overcooked, but fortunately the sauce covered it up.

1 tooth

Elia

Apellou 27 | Old town, Κos, GR 85300, Ελλάδα • +30-2242022133 • elia-kos.gr
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If you’re visiting Kos as quick, novel day trip or you’re simply stuck there on an unfortunate layover between ferries to a more desirable Greek island, fret not. There is a truly great restaurant to be found amidst the touristy madness. Elia is located in Old Town along the exact same strip of shit stores where you can buy everything from Kiss T-Shirts and Yankees baseball caps (who knows why?) all the way to Spartan replicas, ouzo bottles sporting boners and hordes of infused olive oils (which make more sense).

But once you set foot inside Elia, you feel as if you are finally in Greece and not some isle of commercialism and greed. While the front is charming with it’s wood cabinetry and shelves loaded with jars and containers, I recommend you sit in the back, further escaping into the dappled garden light where you can cool off and enjoy some of the best Greek you’ve ever had.

It started off with a bountiful basket of bread, olives and tapenade. The pitas are piping hot, fresh from the over, so we horked those down pretty fast.

Upon several waiter recommendations we also had some of the best tzatziki I’ve ever had served along side some of the best baba ganoush I’ve ever had, made with red peppers and olives in addition to the eggplant.

Then came an olive and feta pie he recommended, which came in almost empañada like pastries. Again, it was very good.

The consistency kept coming with the lamb kapamas which was a shank stewed in a wonderfully sweet cinnamon sauce. It was so friggin’ good I forced the entire thing down even though I was already full by the time it hit the table (the portions are so generous you can easily get 4 servings out of any of those three starters).

So after such an impressive performance I just had to press on. We asked for his reco on dessert as well, and while he said “of course the baklava,” he also said, if you want to try something much more unique, try the ice cream with sweet vegetables and fruit. Sweet vegetables? With ice cream? Okay, he had me. I’m always a sucker for something new.

Once again, Elia soared. Creamy, cold vanilla surrounded by eggplant, tomatoes, olives and cherries. All of them preserved in such a way as to retain their original flavor, while also managing to deliver enough sweetness to coexist with the ice cream. So different. So good.

And best of all, the price was extremely reasonable. And I’m not just saying that because the waiter treated us to two glasses of a delicious dessert wine, sort of like a Greek port. I am, however, giving Elia five knives because they didn’t miss a single note. And because they turned being stranded in Kos into lemonade.

5 teeth

Ilili

236 5th Ave. New York, NY 10001 • (212) 683-2929 ililinyc.com

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I’ve only eaten lunch here (several times), but one of these days I will be back for dinner.

Of the many visits however, here are some of my learnings: For my first trip I had the prix fixe (great deal) and decided to go with the Phoenician fries which, I have to say, are probably the best fries I’ve even had in my life along with the Lamb Dip. The lamb was definitely good too, but compared to the fires, it took second.

The bread was also good (warm puffy pita), as was the cucumber, mint lemonade. The only miss was dessert, the caramelized banana bread was just eh.

As for decor and service, both were excellent. Decor being a very pleasant surprise. It’s sleek and hip and a very popular spot for happy hour.

So that rounds out my first impression. Upon returning, however, here’s what else I learned. Get the mezzes as opposed to the prix fixe. It’s definitely the way to go. The brussel sprout dish alone is worth a second, third, fourth and fifth trip. Easily the best brussel sprout dish I’ve ever had – and for those of you who have been to Cleo in LA, yes, this one is better.

We also had several other dishes from tuna belly, to lahamajeen, to hummus and all were quite good as well. The only thing that was a bit of a let down were the stuffed grape leaves, which is a shame, because that’s one of my favorite dishes- but whatevs- with everything else as good as it is, I’d put this in the top 5 med restaurants in the city without a second thought. Granted until I go for dinner I’m holding back on the fifth knife.

4 teeth

MP Taverna

One Bridge St. Irvington, NY 10533 • (914) 231-7854

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Out of the 4 different restaurants that have been in this space over the last 8 years, I would place MP in a tie for second place. ONE (RIP) takes first quite handily, and coincidentally, the decor is actually the most similar to ONE compared to Solera & Day Boat (the other half of the tie).

The service was great. Quick, but never pushy. With some good recommendations.

But as for the food, I found it a bit hit and miss and meh. For example, the fried calamari was quite bland. The octopus, while good, was nothing all that special. The sliders were also a solid good, but again, nothing off the charts. And the dip assortment was also just okay, with the exception of the humus-type dip, which was my first bite to reach OMG status.

As for entrees, I found the lamb shank to also be quite bland. As was the simple branzino. But I did enjoy the Greek Paella, made with orzo and lamb sausage. A nice inventive twist on a Spanish stronghold.

Then, came dessert and yet another miss. The baklava is definitely a pass, and a bit of a crime for a higher end Greek restaurant. But fortunately, we also ordered the chocolate halva. WOW was that good. The nuttiness with the chocolate and ice cream- whoever made this should be promoted to executive chef and take the reigns on everything else.

Oh, and last but not least, the sangria- also, you guessed it, good- not great.

Sorry MP, I had much higher hopes for you, considering how busy you’ve been. But I just couldn’t help wishing ONE was still around.

2 teeth