Almayass

24 E 21st St. New York, NY 10010(212) 473-3100almayassnyc.com

almayass-nyc

Attention all Ilili lovers, there’s another game in town. And what’s especially nice about this game is that it’s easier to play. In case my obtuse analogy isn’t tracking, what I mean to say is that it’s way easier to get a table, especially at lunch.

But settle you will not. Almayass is not just an alternative. It’s very much a destination in its own right. From the moment you enter, you are immediately taken by the elegant décor which is much warmer than Ilili,, blending more classic elements with contemporary, and accented with wonderful works of art.

Another plus is that the staff is much more pleasant and much less snooty than at Ilili, which is nice if you don’t want a side of attitude with your fattoush, speaking of which, it was very good.

In fact, most everything was good. A few misses. A few homeruns. And lots in between. Among the homers would be the Soujuk Almayass. Best thing I’ve ever had with this Middle Eastern sausage. It’s painfully simple really, just a slice of sausage sitting on a crostini with a sunny side quail egg on top. But holy Lebanon was it good! Chased with a little arak (Lebanese anise liquor) and I was all like “Ilili who?”

Another dish that was surprisingly better than any I’d ever had before was the mantee. It’s the same thing as the Turkish dish “manti, which are tiny ravioli filled with meat, covered in yogurt. What made it so special, however, was how crisp it was on the outside, and so most and creamy on the inside. And we all know what a softy I am for contrasting textures.

Three other dishes that were also very strong were the kebab made with filet mignon, the baba ganoush served with pomegranate seeds and the lentil soup. Granted my review of the soup is only hearsay, and by that I mean “MMMMMMMMM!!!” from across the table.

In the middle of the road was the pita bread, tzatziki and hummus. And bringing up the rear, the three biggest misses for me were the olives, the tabouleh salad and the sarma.

The olives because they were served pitted, which I can only assume was due to the fact that they’re afraid of getting sued by someone for cracking a tooth on a pit, because no self-respecting restaurant from the region would ever serve olives pitted otherwise.

The tabouleh because it was very leafy and dry. I like mine more moist and hearty.

And last but- well actually least, the sarma. Among the worst stuffed grape leaves I’ve ever had. Such a shame too, because this place was so close to five knives, but I’m afraid they fell shy by one.

4 teeth

Pasha

70 W 71st St. New York, NY 10023 (212) 579-8751 •  pashanewyork.com
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 I’ve been going to Pasha for years and the reason is quite simple, it’s the best Turkish in the city. Well, other than Beyoglu and Pera. But they each do different things well, so it’s kind of a draw.

Among Pasha’s bailiwicks are the octopus, so consistently tender and awesome it just barely missed my Ultimate Octopus list. Solid mezes ranging from baba ganoush to sigara boregi (feta pastry) to yaprak sarma (stuffed grape leaves). And of course entrees ranging from whole fish to kebabs and all of it is done as authentic as anything you might find in Istanbul.

Decor is touch on the expected side, painted Turkish Flag Red. But they somehow manage to charm it up with its different rooms and quaint vibe. As a result it feels nothing like its decor twin in Kips Bay, Turkish Kitchen (also red, but more expansive and less intimate).

And service as a rule among most Turkish haunts is always very friendly and accommodating. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a bad waiter at Pasha or any other Turkish restaurant in the city and I’ve eaten at close to a dozen. And I’m not just saying that because my Turkish wife is reading over my shoulder as I type this.

4 teeth

 

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