I always try my very best not to be late to my restaurant reservations. Since living and working in New York City almost six years ago, punctuality has become something I try to abide by. When I was just about to leave my office to meet up with my wife Jun and her friend at Pylos, a long-standing and popular Greek restaurant in East Village, for a Friday dinner, I got held up at work and ended up having to call the restaurant that I was running late and will get there thirty minutes after the reservation time. Then I heard something that was quite bizarre from the other side on the phone: “Well, you will then have to vacate the table by 8:30 p.m.” Our original reservation time was 7 p.m. Wait, the restaurant actually gives only an hour and half to sit down and eat?? This is not some casual BBQ joint where you get the food at the counter. We showed up by 7:30 p.m. anyways hoping that the restaurant has enough tables to afford extra time for us, but the hostess was quite adamant that we have to leave by 8:30; the only option was the communal table which won’t open up in the next 30-45 minutes. We sighed but gambled our way in and asked to bring the food as quickly as possible. Later, the manager came by and said we can have an extra 30 minutes for ourselves. Still, the pace with which the server was bringing food was at the speed of light; a group next to our table that arrived earlier than our party was just finishing up on the appetizers by the time we were almost done with main dishes. Anyways, with all that snafu on timing, was Pylos a good restaurant in terms of food? Yes, there were some pretty delicious items on the table.
I haven’t had a ton of exposure to Greek food throughout my culinary journey, but have always been fond of the clean flavor of this Mediterranean country that emphasizes freshness of ingredients. The trio of tzatziki yogurt dip, fish roe dip and eggplant condiment was a very nice smart to the meal, especially the pleasantly salty fish roe dip and the rustic eggplant that I gladly dipped the pita bread with. Fresh artichoke heart moussaka was another standout dish; accompanied by caramelized onions, herbs and cheeses, it offered a rich complexity of flavor without making you feel tired of it. Terrine of baked pasta layered with aromatic meat sauce and béchamel, a Greek version of lasagna, was also delicious without being overly strong in seasoning.
There were some miscues along the way. I liked the way the octopus was grilled to give very nice crunchy bites, but the balsamic reduction sauce somewhat undermined that textural pleasure. While the whole branzino was cooked very well with minimal seasoning just like any large Greek fish is supposed to be cooked, it wasn’t quite aptly deboned during the preparation (perhaps due to all the rush to deliver all these foods as quickly as possible to our table?) so Jun and I had to carefully navigate the flesh to make sure we don’t choke ourselves with pieces of bones. On the other hand, everyone enjoyed the grilled baby lamb chops that were cooked deliciously at medium rare and accompanied by minim stuffed eggplants and fingerling potatoes.
Getting a reservation at Pylos wasn’t too challenging, but the restaurant was nearly packed during our meal, so I’m somewhat sympathetic to the restaurant’s logistical challenges as a result of our tardiness and was regretful we ended up late, but still it was hard to completely get over the fact that they allocated only 1.5 hours for our table in the first place. What if we still showed up on time but were planning to have a relaxing dinner at a leisurely pace with some wine involved? Pylos serves only wine and beer with some esoteric looking Greek wines by the bottle. I liked the décor of the dining space with clay pots hanging throughout the ceiling that gives you an impression that the restaurant is pretty serious about delivering some satisfying Greek food, which it certainly did. Anyways, I hope that I get to have a more relaxing meal at Pylos on my next visit. At least I intend to come back, so that’s a good sign that the kitchen delivered, right?
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 128 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10009
Telephone: (212) 473-0220