Menu: View the Menu
In the past couple of years, The Upper West Side has entered the race to be the city's premiere dining destination, and its newest entrant, Onera, may help it cross the finish line. Chef/owner Michael Psilakis has turned the formerly cave-like Restaurant 222 into a clean, modern space, one that proves to be an ideal setting for his extremely inventive Greek-inspired menu.Review By: Brian Scott Lipton
Indeed, if you have the time and money, indulge in Psilakis' custom-designed tasting menu, as a few tables did the night of our visit. But even if you do all the choosing, it's unlikely you'll go wrong. (If the menu daunts you, don't worry: the servers are all incredibly knowledgeable.)
While you indulge in one of the numerous wines by the glass -- the house offers an excellent selection of both Greek and international varieties -- nibble on bite-size portions of the sensational "raw meze," which include fresh-as-can-be diver scallops topped with tzatziki and curls of pickled fennel, thin slices of beet crowned with silky sea urchin, or delicious rounds of veal carpaccio under chunks of tuna tartare, shaved bottarga and crispy capers.
Of the more substantial appetizers, the big winner is the chilled roasted octopus, which is tossed with sweet salami, slices of Granny Smith apples and mint leaves in a pleasing anchovy vinaigrette -- an extraordinary mélange of taste and texture. Those same diver scallops come simply seared atop a flavorful bed of wilted spinach and braised cauliflower, napped in a well-balanced cherry and brown butter sauce.
While only the hardiest souls will try Onera's five-course offal menu, don't pass up a trio of perfectly prepared sweetbread nuggets -- crisp on the outside, soft on the inside -- accompanied a quartet of heavenly foie gras dumplings.
If you think Greeks don't do pasta, Psilakis may change your mind. Sheep milk dumplings, which resemble the lightest gnocchi, are served in a hearty sun-dried tomato sauce dotted with pieces of lamb sausage, while "manti," paper-thin ravioli filled with a quartet of cheeses, are practically ethereal. And you won't be able to resist the slivers of crispy artichokes that crown these beauties either.
Entrees can be a letdown at even the best restaurants, but Psilakis keeps things on the upswing: well-prepared crispy red mullet (served whole, then filleted tableside) gets added oomph from pureed parsnips, while excellent venison loin is accented by a yummy venison sausage, not to mention an addictive combination of lentils and frisee.
No Greek restaurant will ever truly dazzle me with their desserts, but I ate every bite of orange blossom honey cake with orange-scented marscapone cream, flanked by a scoop of triple orange sorbet. My dining companion was equally pleased with a plate of homemade yogurt, fruits, oats crowned with two scoops of pomegranate sorbet.
By the way, Onera means dreams in Greek, and the restaurant's name is apt. You'll be dreaming about this meal for nights -- and days -- to come.
Neighborhood: West 70s
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