MP Taverna early impression
My GF and I went to MP on Sunday night, both in the mood for Greek food, but not wanting to hit the usual suspects. Walked in around 7:30 to find the place about three-quarters full, a mix of families, date night couples and local dudes -- nice vibe, not overly loud, but bubbly.
First note: service spot-on. attentive hostess handed us off to waitress who struck a good balance between affable and efficient. pre-dinner drinks generously poured, with a nice array of house cocktails. extensive beer list that's well annotated and wines by half glass and glass.
bread was meh. earthy but too thinly sliced with mid-range olive oil for dipping.
we wanted to try the much praised octopus app, but it was already sold out. subbed the calamari, which was the least impressive dish we were served. cleanly fried, and served atop a bed of charred cauliflower and fried chickpeas. those accoutrements were very good, but the calamari lacked oomph, and needed some....salt, pepper, pretty much anything.
the greek sausage app, on the other hand, was fantastic. coarse, bursting with fat and flavor -- the promised orange and leek and a lot more. two good sized links, halved lengthwise. a definite re-order.
for mains, we chose the greek paella and a special of lump crab risotto. both memorable, but both almost too much of a good thing. the risotto was extravagant and rich to the point where i think an app portion would do me well. feta, tomato,herbs and a surplus of crabmeat.
the paella was similarly outfitted. an orzo base laden with shellfish and lamb sausage. way more shellfish than we expected, good clams, head on prawns and a smattering of mussels in a well balanced broth. this sausage was a little more herbaceous than the pork appetizer one. a nice touch,
for dessert, we shared a galaktobureka (i never spell that right) creme brulee loaded with fresh mixed berries. textural harmony with a lush brulee, crunchy phyllo and vibrant fruit.
with two drinks and two beers each, it ran about $120, a price point that would get me back soon.
Did they heat your bread up? I've eaten there three times now, the first time, the bread was straight from the oven, piping hot, and was wonderful. The second time, they did not heat the bread and it was meh as you describe. I sent it back to be reheated. It makes such a big difference in the quality of the bread.
I highly recommend grandma's meatballs, savory clouds of perfectly seasoned Greek meatballs. It's their knockout.
I'd avoid the crab cakes. There is an off-putting smoky flavor with too much mayonnaise and oily.
The bulgar salad is another standout, really wonderful combination of flavors and textures. They offer it with grilled chicken as well.
The soulvaki is good but pedestrian, no better than a $5 version other than offering better quality meat. The smashed fries are a good concept but were oversalted two out of three visits. Inedibly salty to the point where I was scraping salt off with a knife.
I second the paella recommendation, just as you described and lovely.
I would also second the Greek sausage recommendation, yum.
For dessert we usually run to Artopolis :)
The room is more modern at MP Taverna and the presentation of food is more elegant than Agnanti. Agnanti has a cosy, rustic quality but I prefer the aesthetic at MP Taverna, it's more impressive for a birthday.
I'd also give MP Taverna the edge on food even though I feel it's uneven, the highs are higher. Although the mediocre things I had at MP are worse than anything I've had at Agnanti.
Really recommend Grandma's meatballs, paella, bulgur salad, hangar steak and greek sausage. Unless you really like salt, ask for the smashed fries lightly salted or salt on the side because they are very tasty, but way over-salted.
It will be interesting to see how well MP will do in Astoria especially given the array of Greek restaurants already in the neighborhood. The bar in his Roslyn restauarant looks absolutely stunning, and I love the "WhisperPerk Alerts" for diners who can dine out on Mondays. Nice touch MP!
As a follow-up, we got back there again Saturday and got to try that octopus app.
It was as good as any octopus dish I've ever had. The seasoning, the use of chickpeas, but the octopus texture was terrific -- not rubbery at all and with a nice char.
The other highlights from this trip, which included a friend -- the bulgur salad with its nice contrast of flavors, the dumplings which were pillowy without getting gluey and a sauce with acidity, heat and flavor and the apple baklava napoleon dessert, which is either a twist on the apple pie flavor profile or a slightly different and less sickly sweet take on the baklava profile.
Overall, this meal was better and more consistent than our first trip -- no clinkers like the well-cooked, but flavor-free calamari.
The pricing is good as well, as I daresay similar dishes would cost more at places in Manhattan.
Also worth mentioning is the drink selection, for those inclined. Between the three of us, we were all pleased with our potent potables.
Finally, I would recommend getting an upstairs table if you can. It's a more relaxed feel and even though it was plenty busy, we didn't have to shout to here each other in conversation unlike any number of newer restaurants out there.