Saturday, March 21, 2009


505 Columbus Avenue near 84th street

Having dined here this passed Sunday, I was excited to see that The New York Times Wednesday food section included Frank Bruni’s 1-Star review of Kefi, a Greek restaurant owned by star chef Michael Psilakis and restaurateur Donatella Arpaia. Originally opened as Onera, Psilakis transformed the space into Kefi to allow for significantly more tables over two floors of dining space (NY Magazine reported that over 130 seats were added). The spot has become one of the more popular restaurants in the area, a fact made all too clear when we were told that our 6:00 reservation would only be held for 15 minutes since all of the tables in the gargantuan restaurant were booked. After being escorted downstairs and seated at a table towards the back, my girlfriend, her father and I placed our orders. Warm feta, grilled octopus and crispy cod to start, with branzinos and a lamb shank to follow.

The crispy cod ($7.50) was coated in a light batter and served over mashed potatoes which sounds like a fancy way to say fish and chips substituted with mashed potatoes, but it still managed to be light and I was able to actually taste the fish instead of just batter. While it was definitely a nice appetizer, the other two really did it for me. When octopus is done well, it can be very tasty, and Kefi knows how to transform a tough piece of octopod into something soft and flavorful. Served with a bean & chickpea salad ($9.95), this is octopus at its finest. Forget the chewy rubber band mess prepared at too many places and redefine what the dish really tastes like. Our last appetizer, warm feta ($6.95) offers a plate of tomatoes, capers, anchovies, peppers, olives and warm feta with pita slices for dipping. It’s simple, flavorful and has anchovies and feta. I’m always up for that. The warm feta makes for a great appetizer to share and I would definitely order it again at a table or waiting at the bar.

Crispy Cod:

Grilled Octopus:

Warm Feta:

While Kefi also offers souvlaki sandwiches and pastas (which they dub “macaronia”), the entrĂ©e selections looked too good to pass up. The grilled branzino ($16.95) was delicate, accented by a drizzle of olive oil and accompanied by roasted potatoes, tomatoes and a hot pepper (a cousin of the pepperoncini?) that still had the fiery taste but without any of the burn. While the branzino will satisfy anyone’s craving for fish, I opted for the braised lamb shank with orzo ($15.95). Tender meat that fell off the bone, stewed tomatoes, and a generous helping of rich orzo made this a dish worth coming back for.

Grilled Branzino:

Lamb Shank:

As if the food onslaught wasn’t enough, we indulged ourselves with orders of walnut cake served with walnut ice cream ($7). Though the edges of the cake were a little dry and needed to team up with a sliver of the ice cream for texture, the dessert had a carrot cake spice to it which is always a welcome treat.

Though the quality of service seemed to diminish as the meal went on, the food, the prices, and the atmosphere make Kefi a great place to go to with your parents, a date, or anyone that lives on the Upper West Side.

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