Thursday, March 27, 2014

Free Dessert! However...: Taverna Kyclades

TL;DR: ★★☆☆☆ (more like 2.5 stars)

Polite service, decent lunch specials (with free dessert!), clean venue — but the food is mediocre at best.

Food: ★★☆☆☆
Ambiance: ★★★☆☆
Staff: ★★★☆☆

Price: $$
Number of visits: 1

Forgot to take a non-food picture of the place, so this'll do. Our spread!
(14th St. & 1st Ave.)

Having heard so many great things about Taverna Kyclades' Astoria location, I was so excited to try out its East Village spot, which opened up very close to my apartment not too long ago. So on a Wednesday afternoon, I came here with my Mediterranean food enthusiast friend (the same one that experienced Kefi with me) around 12 p.m. We were seated right away as the restaurant was virtually empty since it had just opened for the day.

Known for its authentic Greek food, Taverna Kyclades offers a decent variety of seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes, even for the lunch specials. After a few minutes of debating, and asking the waiter for recommendations, I went for the chicken souvlaki with potatoes (which takes 15 minutes to cook), and my friend ordered the grilled shrimp with a beet salad. 

Bread, olive oil, dried herbs

Upon placing our orders, we got our bread, which was pretty good. The bread slices had sparse specks of black olives and grill marks throughout, and the exterior was crispy while the inside was soft and plush. The olive oil drizzled on top was also good — pretty mild yet still flavorful.

Chicken souvlaki ($11.95)

Then finally came our entrees, which indeed took about 15 to 20 minutes. As beautiful as our plates looked, I was unfortunately not as impressed by the taste and texture of my souvlaki than I was of the presentation. The chicken, while it looked juicy and super succulent, was actually a bit dry and had a slightly crumbly and grainy texture that I didn't really care for. There also wasn't much to the flavor/seasoning of it, so these were essentially dry, bland cubes of meat to me.

The veggies, on the other hand, were a little better. The onions were crisp, and the peppers and tomato slices were supple and juicy. They were also charred a good amount, adding a slightly smoky taste to them. 

However, the biggest disappointment with this dish was the side I chose. They were lemon potatoes, and I got them because they were not only the healthier option to fries, but they also were listed as a traditional Greek side. But these potatoes were, while lemony, also quite flavorless, and the texture wasn't as soft as I would've liked. In fact, these were a bit too lemony that it took away the savory taste a potato side should have. 

Maybe this dish was just off, or I chose the wrong one, but I wasn't very impressed by the souvlaki. I did, however, take a bite of the grilled shrimp, and judging from my first impression of it, it was a much better choice than the souvlaki. 

Complimentary dessert, galaktoboureko

BUT, Taverna Kyclades did redeem itself in the food department a little with its complimentary dessert. After we were done with our entrees, the waiter surprised us with galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek custard pastry dessert. My friend thought it was too sweet, but for me, this totally hit the spot. I loved how flaky the pastry dough was, and the custard was perfectly creamy and delicious. It was also topped with some kind of honey-based sauce, which was a great touch and reminded me of baklava (and I love baklava). 

Our server was nice, polite and not too bad on his feet. It did take a while for us to get our entrees, but that obviously wasn't his fault. 

The decor and ambiance were just alright — nothing too special about them. I've walked past the venue a few times at night, and it's definitely more of a casual place that'd be good for dinner with friends and/or family rather than for anything more intimate. The bright lighting and stark-white walls give off the casual vibe, making the general atmosphere not that romantic.

Needless to say, I was quite disappointed by my experience here — perhaps because the Astoria location got so much hype. I'm not sure if I'd come back to the EV space, but I'd be willing to give lunch at the Astoria spot a try.

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