Craving a Mediterranean meal? Head to Midtown for a decadent meal at one of these five fantastic restaurants. By Carly Petrone.
If you're itching for a bit of Grandma's homemade Mediterranean cooking then make a reservation at Nerai. This contemporary restaurant is serving up traditional items mixed with sophisticated dishes that will leave you wanting more. Chef Chris Christou has created a meze menu that will sure to please. Start out with Feta-Stuff Calamari, Lamb Chop Lollipops, a Trio of Spreads (tzatziki, hummus, and spicy feta), or their decadent Duck Baklava with sour cherry jus before moving onto something heavier. The Alaskan King Crab Linguini in napolitan cream sauce is rich in flavor yet light enough to enjoy the entire plate. The Short Rib Yiouvetsi with orzo, tomato confit, and piave vecchio is another decadent choice. Opt for a side of truffle feta fries to share with the table – it won't disappoint. Plus, Nerai is also open for brunch and features favorites like Lobster Benedict, Tsoureki French Toast with greek honey syrup, seasonal berries, and bananas, as well as a variety of Greek Yogurt Parfaits that are all house-made. Pair your meal with a mimosa or one of their signature cocktails and you're all set.
Sit underneath the cathedral dome ceiling inside Ibis and enjoy a decadent meal. Located within a reconstructed 1920's opera house, the décor is opulent yet inviting with a large ornate winding staircase and a giant banquettes to welcome guests. Vegetarians can nosh on Hot Yogurt Soup with rice and fresh dill meatballs and Stuffed Grape Leaves while meat eaters can nosh on appetizers like lightly pan-fried calamari with lemon and tartar sauce as well as Sizzling Jumbo Shrimp. Main course options are just as tasty with options like Grilled Spicy Chicken with homemade lavash bread and onion salad and Grilled Lamb Chops over aromatic rice pilaf, currants, and pine nuts. Don't forget to top off your meal with sweet profiteroles fit for a king or queen.
Sip on a Fig & Walnut Julep at Fig & Olive on Fifth Avenue before enjoying a fresh Mediterranean meal. This signature cocktail is made with bourbon, elderflower liqueur, Port, muddled black mission figs, mint, lime, and is garnished with shaved walnuts. If you're in the mood for something festive for the holidays try their Pumpkin Martini – house infused vanilla vodka, apple brandy, spiced pumpkin butter, and ginger fresh lime juice that's rimmed with graham cracker bits. Their seasonal menu features fall items like Penne Fughi Tartufo ($24) with cremini and truffle mushroom, parmesan, parsley, scallion, and white truffle oil as well as Mediterranean Barnzino ($30), which is glazed with fig & 18-year-old balsamic vinegar and served with snow pea, fig, olive oil mashed potato, and Koroneiki Olive Oil. The Rosemary Veal Chops ($41) are grilled and smoked a la minute with a bouquet of Herbs de Provence and accompanied with goat cheese and chive gnocchi, braised eggplant with honey and thyme, and rosemary garlic olive oil. Mouth watering already? Pick up Fig & Olive founder Laurent Halasz's new cookbook called Fig & Olive: The Cuisine of the French Riviera, which features some of the restaurant's most popular dishes.
Travel a little further south and dine at Pergola, the bi-level restaurant that is filled with fresh flowers and plants, giving each guest the feeling of dining a la fresca without stepping outside (the space used to be a flower shop after all). Start or end your evening by enjoying a hookah. Choose from a fresh fruit menu that includes flavors like cocktail grape and orange mint or the premium menu that features the Diablo (fireball, apple cinnamon, and mint) or the Pergola Nights (almond milk, pina colada, cinnamon, coconut, and vanilla). Try their version of chicken wings that are chargrilled with harissa and served with spicy aioli or the Grilled Octopus with lime radish, celery, caper flowers, peppers, and aged sherry vinaigrette. The Roasted Pumpkin salad is a great winter starter. It comes with arugula, toasted pine nuts, pomegranate vinaigrette, and smoked goat cheese. Finally, entrees range from Lamb Shawarma with tahini, saffron rice, and baby greens to Grilled Wild Salmon with lentils, sautéed greens, and heirloom carrot puree. Soak up what's left on your plate with a fresh pita basket for the table.
Have a true Mediterranean experience at Pera. Executive chefs lead a team of specialty cooks from Turkey to help introduce lesser known mezes and meat preparations to New York City diners. Enjoy regional breads baked a la minute, marinated cuts of grilled meats and seafood, as well as traditional items like hummus, tartares, and baked flatbreads. Start out your meal with a fresh Watermelon and Feta Salad in a sweet basil dressing or choose from a variety of small plates like Turkish Smoked Lamb Tacos, Pastirma Wrapped Feta-Stuffed Dates, or Marinated Mediterranean Olives. Try their Signature Fresh Lamb "Adana" – hand ground daily and marinate with Eastern Mediterranean spices, served with fresh lavash, garnish salads, and choice of side dish – or the Cote De Boeuf For Two – 72-hour Mediterranean herb & spice marinated 32 oz. prime bone in rib eye, bone marrow, served with two side dishes of your choice. They even offer a special Sunday Supper (from 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.) to help you get ready for the week ahead. For $29/person, you can enjoy a 3 course menu as well as 50% off wines by the bottle. Now that's a great way to end the weekend!
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