Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Restaurant Week 2010 -- Kellari Taverna

I had never heard of this place when Gary e-mailed to say he’d booked a table for our usual RW group, but I like Greek food and don’t get a chance to have it often, so was looking forward to it. The space where the restaurant resides has notoriously been a dead zone for eateries, so it would be nice to see something succeed there.

After running into each other on the Metro, Gary and I battled the freezing wind and made it to the restaurant to meet Heather at the bar and wait for Ali. The restaurant and bar were very inviting on such a cold night—dark wood and sizable wine glasses at the bar, and warm ivory and blond wood in the dining room. The bar was pretty crowded, but we managed to snag barstools and settled in with some wine. They are very generous at Kellari Taverna’s bar (a trend that would continue in the dining room—more on that in a bit). In addition to the deep wine glasses, there is also a massive bowl of different kinds of olives and a large platter with a big hunk of cheese and piles of crunchy bread for snacking on—gratis. Not your average bar snacks, that’s for sure.

Ali having arrived, we settled our bar tab and headed to our table. The hostess handed us our reading material—in addition to the Restaurant Week menu, you could also order off the regular menu, which is pretty sizable, and there was also a HUGE wine list. Our young waitress, the adorable Alexandra, came by to explain how things work. Kellari is primarily a seafood restaurant, and one of their specials is fish by the pound. Sitting on a mound of shaved ice on one side of the restaurant is a variety of types of fish, which customers are invited to inspect before choosing what they want. That seemed too complicated for us, though, so we just stuck with the RW menu.

All right, so appetizers: Ali and I ordered the grilled octopus, Gary got sardines, and Heather got spanakopita, which is a classic Greek snack of phyllo dough with spinach and feta cheese. The octopus was charcoal-grilled and came with a little salad of fennel and leeks and capers. Gary’s sardines were grilled with olive oil and lemon, and he declared them delicious, if bony. The octopus was very good, but man, I am here to tell you that that was not an appetizer portion. I don’t think I got even a quarter of the way through it before I started getting full, and we still had two courses to go! I felt bad letting Alexandra take my uneaten portion away, but octopus is not something you can take home and reheat the next day. Unless you are trying to resole your sneakers or something.

Wine with apps, recommended by the manager/wine guy: Kir-Yianni Paranaga, a dry-ish blend of red varietals from Greece that I cannot pronounce. Very good.

When it came to entrees, I wanted the paidakia (lamb chops), but I was a little reluctant to order something that wasn’t seafood, since that’s the restaurant’s specialty. But then I remembered that this was also a Greek restaurant, and Greeks know their lamb, that’s for damn sure. Ali ordered the scallops with squid ink pasta, Heather got the tomato-braised Chilean sea bass, and Gary got the Arctic char. Everything was really good, but once again—HUGE portions. My plate held four lamb chops, which was about two more than I needed, and they were Flintstone-sized. I got through two and a half, and the rest of the gang helped out with the rest. Ali’s scallops, while cooked beautifully, were each the size of a baby’s fist, I swear. And not a preemie, either. I’m talking a regular baby. Big. Flavors were great, though—the lamb was exactly what I was hoping for from a Greek kitchen.

Wine with dinner, also chosen by wine guy, who gave it to us for a cheaper price because he rules: Angelo Iatridis Axia, a 50-50 Syrah/Xinomarvo (I don’t know) blend. Less dry than the previous one, and a very nice wine.

I had maybe a micron of space left for dessert, but I was looking forward to at least trying the Greek yogurt with sour cherries and walnuts. I probably shouldn’t have been. The yogurt was fine, but the cherries were more like pie filling. Certainly was no match for the chocolate bombs and hazelnut ice cream that the smarter people at the table had ordered. I gave my dessert the finger, and I think Alexandra saw me because she came over and pretended to scold me, “Okay, what’s the matter with your dessert?” I said, “Nothing, it’s just not that,” and pointed to Ali’s chocolate-palooza. “I would totally have this for breakfast, though!” Which I did the next day.

All in all, a good experience with Kellari, but I sure hope they can stay in business. Between the fancy freebies at the bar and the gargantuan portions, I worry about their bottom line. But it’s a nice place, the food is good, and the staff is pleasant. And the President lives right down the street, so if he ever gets a hankering for a shitload of Greek food, maybe you’ll see him there!


Up next: Café Atlantico.


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