I’m going to start out 2011 by writing about Kefi, the first restaurant I ever posted about on TFB. The meal we had was actually in late August but the menu hasn’t changed much since the restaurant opened. We were with a large group of people, which meant that we could order tons of food and try out different things. We got a bunch of different appetizers to share, some that Josh and I had eaten before, and some that were new to us.
We started with the selection of spreads, which includes tzatziki (yogurt), taramosalata (caviar), melintzanosalata (eggplant), and revithia (chickpea). These are always pretty tasty, especially the smokey eggplant dip and the refreshing yogurt dip. We gobbled it up using the slices of warm pita bread they gave us.
Another appetizer that came with pita bread was the warm feta with tomatoes, capers, anchovy, peppers, and olives. While it sounded like an interesting mix of ingredients, I found the dish to be overwhelmingly salty. There was no balance whatsoever to the flavors, and what wasn’t salty was just sour. Not even the pita bread could help cut through the saltiness, and I felt my mouth puckering after just a few bites. I was definitely surprised by how much I disliked this dish.
We also got an order of the Kefi salad, which was shredded lettuce and fennel with tomato, cucumber, olives, peppers, onions, and feta. This salad had similar ingredients to the feta dish but it was way more balanced. The lettuce and fennel were crisp and refreshing, and none of the other ingredients were overpowering.
The crispy calamari appetizer was nicely fried, with pieces of tender calamari that was lightly breaded. It was perfectly seasoned and just needed a squeeze of lemon to brighten it up a bit. The dish came with some tzatziki sauce for dipping, a nice change from the standard marinara.
My favorite appetizer of the night was crispy sweetbreads with tomato, scallion, garlic, olive, and lemon yogurt. I love sweetbreads in general, but these were exceptionally well prepared with a light and crisp exterior and a creamy interior. The accompanying components didn’t overwhelm the dish, and I could still taste the slightly sweet funkiness of the sweetbreads. Most people at the table were turned off by the thought of eating offal so I got to eat most of the dish by myself, which made me one very happy girl.
Our last appetizer was the grilled octopus with bean salad. The octopus was nicely charred and super tender but the highlight of the dish for me was the tangy and refreshing bean salad underneath. It worked well with the subtle flavor of the octopus, but even by itself I could have eaten a whole bowlful of that stuff.
For our entrees, Josh and I went halfsies on the pork souvlaki and the Kefi burger. The souvlaki was wrapped in pita bread and topped with tzatziki sauce, lettuce, and tomato. It was presented street style – wrapped in wax paper – which made it easier to eat because the sandwich would have been too messy otherwise. It came with a small salad and thick cut potato chips on the side. The pork was tender and flavorful, standing up to the other ingredients in the wrap. It was one of the best souvlaki sandwiches that I had and reminded me of the gyros we had during our honeymoon in Greece. The potato chips were quite good as well, especially if you’re a fan of darker chips. They were crunchy and had just enough salt sprinkled on top.
The Kefi burger that we had I think was made from lamb, though the menu says it’s bifteki. Either way, it didn’t taste like a regular burger. There was a definite gaminess to the meat, a slight funkiness to it that I absolutely loved. The patty was thick and nicely cooked so that the crust on the outside was slightly charred and crispy, but the inside was rare and tender. There was some sort of tangy and salty spread on the bun that paired well with the meat. The bun itself looked like it would be too big and dense but it was actually very light and fluffy in the middle, while the outer crust was sturdy enough to support the thick patty and not disintegrate when soaked with all the burger juices. It was a very good burger in my opinion, and uniquely delicious. The burger also came with a side salad and potato chips.
Josh and I passed on dessert, though I did taste some of the rice pudding, which had a nice cinnamon flavor and was topped with an apple mixture that reminded me of apple pie filling. Sounds like a weird combination, but it was actually pretty tasty. Instead we had some caffeine – a frappe for me and a regular coffee for him. The frappe was thick and frothy, not too bitter. The regular coffee was pretty standard but I loved the mug it was served in, which was modeled after the classic Greek takeout coffee cups.
We don’t go to Kefi often enough, in my opinion. The food is always well prepared, tasty, and reasonably priced. The restaurant serves classic Greek dishes with an upscale twist, but not at upscale prices. It’s a great place for large groups because the food is easily shareable, and the atmosphere is casual but upbeat. Service was fast and efficient, though we were chatting a lot during the meal and we never felt rushed. It’s definitely a place that I will come back to again and again.
505 Columbus Ave. between 84th and 85th St.
New York, NY