Parea’s Spartan Delights

5 Best and 5 Worst at Parea Restaurant (www.parea-ny.com)

Kalos: The Good

1) Lush and Lusty Lamb chops: The classic Greek meat was a revelation. Rich and meaty as beefsteak without any of the usual heaviness. Cooked to specification, generously portioned and worthy of a second order.

2) Lickable lamb ribs with orange zest: The braised flesh yielded to gentle pressure, releasing far more flavor than I ever thought could be squeezed from Little Bo Peep .

3) Superlative Sweetbreads: Perhaps the most delicious dish on the menu. Richly roasted with smoky flavors, strong meaty mouth feel and wonderful seasoning. Better than Eleven Madison Park’s sweetbreads, better than Landmarc’s, better than Blue Ribbon’s.

4) Stellar Greek Whites: The native grape wine selections were resin free and flavorful. Priced well below expectation by Gramercy area standards, they delivered far more surprise and delight than I would have expected.

5) Friendly Front of House: Servers and maitre d’ were warm, honest (I don’t care for ouzo either) and flexible. They seated our incomplete party, brought appetizers to keep us busy while we checked Blackberries and generally helped ease a few awkward moments of thumb twiddling down time.

Kakos: The Bad and The Ugly

1) Octogenarian Octopus: A Greek place without fresh seafood is Eater Deathwatch-worthy. Our ancient creature of the sea was richly sauced, lovingly plated and godawful. I cannot accept gamy tentacles as anyone’s idea of haute cuisine, particularly at the peak of weekend service. Someone should have noticed the half-full platter we sent back and asked if there had been a problem. I fear they already knew.

2) Leathery Langoustines: When young and beautiful, langoustines look and taste good anywhere from raw to roasted. These old-man stenched, manky numbers were beyond repair and confirmed that the octopus disaster was a trend, not an exception.

3) Desultory Donuts: Much praised in print, ours were greasy and off temperature.  This is a common and delicious dessert item and could and should have been much better.  Greek coffee was a pleasurable counterpoint, but pricey for what it was, Turkish coffee with nationalist pretenses.

4) Off Atmosphere: Empty at eight upon our arrival and just filling as we left at ten. Parea feels like a lounge with food, not a restaurant. I don’t mind if the place goes disco late at night, but don’t make diners feel like they got to the party too early. This isn’t Madrid. Some of us do eat before nine. For a room to be loud and empty is merely a triumph of bad thinking.

5) Monochromatic Color Scheme: Three white sauces with white pita on white plates may work in a beautifully decorated flawlessly executed seafood restaurant on an intimate Greek isle. Here it felt like a platter of paint samples. Thankfully, the sauces, particularly, the feta and lemon, didn’t taste like High Gloss Benjamin Moore.

Takeaway: Stick to the turf and you’ll eat like a hero.  Venture into the surf and you may wake up feeling like you’re swimming with the fishes.

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3 Responses to “Parea’s Spartan Delights”

  1. Food Fiend Says:

    What about the Greek reds? Did you delve into the other side of the wine list? I’ve heard good things lately about Greek red wine, but so far I’ve kept to the whites.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    And now it’s likely gone. Plenty of potential, but it’s a brutal restaurant scene here. I’ll have to head to Cleveland to see what else this team can do. They clearly have the talent,if not the right suppliers and space, to make it work.

  3. Harrison at the Crossroads: Last Supper Before Freitag Takes the Toque « Fat and Happy Food Slut Says:

    […] was born too late for a good meal in New York. I arrived at Country as Doug Psaltis headed out, at Parea as Michael Symon closed shop and at Gramercy Tavern as Tom Colicchio was selling his interest. That […]

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