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May 20, 2008 05:11 PM

Kellari's Parea Greek Bistro, Flatiron

I had a wonderful meal last year at the original Parea, was subsequently disappointed that they had closed, then happily surprised that they had reopened under the Kellari umbrella. So four of us tried it one evening on a business occasion.

Top line: Food fine, wine list (for Greek varietals) terrific, service spotty.

For starters we ordered bottles of the Biblia Chora Sauvignon Blanc/Assyrtiko blend for a white and the Kir Yianni Ramnista 2000 Xinomavro for a red – the former quite good but the latter a bit thin. On the food side we shared the grilled marinated octopus and the Keftedes (angus beef Greek meatballs in Agiorgitiko sauce), both pronounced good.

For entrees, everything was delicious: Yesterdays Lamb, “our style of fire roasted baby lamb slowly cooked overnight to enhance mature flavor and offered the next day” and “served with oven oregano lemon potatoes,” a semi-traditional Moussaka, and the daily special, Veal Sofrito, pounded to resemble a skirt steak (or skate wing?), served with mushroom risotto.

An excellent bottle of the Gaia Estate 2004 Agiorgitiko was ordered and consumed somewhere in there.

For afters, we sort of shared Rizogalo (arborio rice pudding with mastic & spice poached quince), Galaktoboureko (vanilla bean semolina custard with a phyllo crust & apple syrup), and Pagoto (ice cream) – all yummy.

Now about that service. It was relaxed, but that was not really a problem as we were not in a big hurry. But no question some could find it annoyingly slow. Biggest issue for me was the Biblia Chora, which was kept in a cooler away from the table. In every case, when glasses ran low, there was no one around to refill them so one of us had to run over and fetch the wine. At these prices, not acceptable.

Good food and wine, yes, but with the number of quality Greek options in Manhattan, given the service I am not sure I would go back before I had tried some others.

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  1. The twice I've been there recently I've had sweet, personable service: very attentive one time, relatively attentive the other. I think the food is pretty great, given the reasonable prices. An affordable wine list, too, and the room is beautiful. I think of it as an "adult" restaurant.

    1. I had a similar experience to MercerChow's. We took my mom there for Mother's Day. The food was great, but the service was spotty. Our waitress said she would bring over the wine list and when we said we didn't need it she just assumed we didn't want to order drinks which was not the case and therefore did not ask for our drink order. The service was fine during our entree portion of the meal, but after they took our plates and brought us the desert menu they basically forgot about us which is difficult considering we were sitting at a middle table on the floor. We had to call someone over to take our desert order and then it took so long to actually get desert that I asked for them to bring us the check when they did finally bring over our desert.

      The food was excellent, so I want to give it one more try. I'm hoping they work out the kinks.

      1. My advice to anyone considering this place is to avoid it like the plague. It basically offers mediocre-to-bad taverna food at Le Bernadin prices. The spreads were bland, the octopus was bitter, the salad was unbelievably small, comprised over over-ripe tomatoes and cucumbers, and the fish was okay, but again ridiculously overpriced. Finally, the servers were nice but absent-minded at times. Plus, they interrupted us every five minutes to push their sparkling water and alcohol. All in all, three mezes, one SHARED fish, one small plate of lemon potatoes, which we had to pay for separately, ONE bottle of beer, ONE bottle of sparkling water, an espresso, a decaf capucinno and ONE shared galaktoboureko cost us $210!! Save your money and go to Astoria. If Manhattan is a must, go to Ethos -- and NOWHERE else....

        2 Replies
        1. re: Deuce

          Deuce, I'm not quite sure where you got your facts from regarding "Le Bernadin" prices at Parea, but if anything they are under priced, especially if you consider the neighborhood and surrounding restaurants. And you discredit your entire blog by recommending another place, as if you have some personal interest there. My experiences at Parea have been enjoyable and I have recommended it to friends as well. It is not a place to be compared to the finest French restaurants, nor do they aspire to be so.

          1. re: Deuce

            deuce i am in complete agreement. we went down to check on the SWAN like others, found it closed and stopped in here. KELLARI'S is way overpriced and the food was not very good. the meze items were forgettable. rubbery octopus that tasted like they picked it out of the bottom of an old freezer and threw it on the grill & "eh" lamb. it's mostly empty too & for good reason. definately go to ETHOS instead.

          2. Devastated by the news of the imminent closing of The Silver Swan on 20th St, we went for a farewell brace of drinks on Saturday night. It was like a wake, everybody that we know gathering there to mourn together.

            The weather was pretty dramatic, too, so we decided to just cross the street and try Kellari's Parea afterward. It went a long way toward comforting us, actually. If there have been service issues in the past they were not in evidence on Saturday night. We were greeted enthusiastically, encouraged to choose the table that suited us best, and the waiters were attentive, almost to a fault. Water and wine glasses were re-filled seamlessly.

            We were brought most excellent bread and there was a dish on the table with a generous slices of cheese, an assortment of olives and olive oil for bread dipping. I started with the grilled, marinated octopus and it was as good a version as I have ever had. I followed with a deeply flavorful moussaka that I couldn't quite manage to finish. My date started with a delicate and tasty spanakopita and had an unctuous fire-roasted piglet with lemon potatoes for his main.

            I liked the space a little more than I did that of Parea, cozier, warmer and more taverna-like. I was pretty impressed all around.

            Not that anything would ease my pain over The Swan, but this at least helped.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Deb Van D

              Thanks for this report, Deb. We had dinner once at the original Parea and liked it. Since it was gone practically in a flash, we never got a chance to go back. I've been hesitating about trying Kellari's Parea, but now that it has gotten the "Deb Van D Seal of Approval," :-)) I'm putting it on my "go to" list.

              P.S. We've never been to the Silver Swan. Was Saturday night "the end"?

              1. re: RGR

                Alas yes, Saturday was the end. Sudden enough, too, that Mike the owner wasn't in good enough spirits to come and say goodbye to his friends. It was especially appealing over the holidays, the lights and decorations warm and appealing. And it was a favorite place to enjoy fine weather, the doors thrown wide to a quiet street. I may need grief counseling over this one; as if Minetta Tavern wasn't enough.

                I liked Parea, too, a little different in a small plates way. This is more taverna style but I liked it a lot and am not shy about recommending it to you. We'd put off trying it too but it was the night for it.

                  1. re: Lucia

                    By the time stamps, I see that you two fine ladies cross-posted a response to my question. Thank you both.

                    I presume the closure is due to a substantial rent hike? It will be interesting to see what, if any, restaurant takes its place. That's a major eating block, what with Veritas right next door (new chef via Robuchon just took over), Gramercy Tavern directly across the street, and Parea a little ways down from GT.

                    1. re: RGR

                      Yes, a substantial rent hike. According to one of the (other) regulars, after lots of wicked negotiating back and forth, she basically just wanted them out. The owner of The Swan is a man with a dark sense of humor and a strong personality; a force to be reckoned with. Whatever he does next he swears will NOT include another restaurant. Whether or not another restaurant goes into the space is a matter of some conjecture.

                      That was always an easy street for parking, too. We would always joke about it if we didn't get a spot within one or two doors of The Swan. Alas.

                      1. re: Deb Van D

                        Restaurants closing because of gargantuan rent hikes seems to be a trend (See: Florent). That or buildings coming down to make way for condos. Park Bistro managed to re-locate a few blocks south (and change its name to Park Avenue Bistro); however, the decor in the new space has zero of the Paris bistro charm of the original. Le Madeleine is supposed to be taking over the Rene Pujol location, but I haven't seen any recent updates in that regard.

                        1. re: RGR

                          I may be to Kellari's Parea for dinner tonight (either that, Hill Country, or Markt as it depends on what we're in the mood for).

                          Can anyone comment on if it will be difficult to get a table for 2 around 8:30? Also are there any must-try appetizers or deserts?

                          Is it possible to get out of here for $100 with an appetizer/desert, 2 entrees and 2 glasses of wine?

                          1. re: fishermb

                            I can't help you with your first two questions, but a look at the menu on their website will answer your question about costs.


              2. I ate there again just two nights ago, and had yet another excellent dinner. The lamb is always wonderful, but this time we both had fish -- sword and sea bass -- both simply and beautifully prepared. I'm particularly fond of the veal dolmades, as the grape leaves are fresh and firm. We had particularly good service from our adorable waiter, Nick, and every time I'm there the managers always stop by to see how everything is. I'm quite fond of this place, if you can't tell!