Friday, April 3, 2009

The Rereview: A birthday revisit at Pera

It was the bro's birthday this past Wednesday (April FOOLS!!! Hahahahaha. No wait, it really was), and for an extra special treat, the Mom came in from Massachusetts to take JT, the bro, and me out to a celebratory dinner. Per my suggestion, we made our way to Pera Mediterranean Brasserie, a place I'd been to with my mom and thought the bro would like.

We were seated at a large table with a great view of the open kitchen (score!). We took our time placing our order, but shortly after we had completed the transaction, Pera's interesting bread basket arrived. I say interesting because the bread is tasty-- almost completely hollow and studded with sesame seeds. But, being hollow, it's almost entirely unsatistfying. The best part of the basket is the tangy, pungent feta cheese that's really delicious ladled into the empty interior of each small pocket.

Bread. It will fool you with its emptiness.

Our appetizers emerged quite promptly. The bro had selected the crispy phyllo rolls, which our waiter described as "Turkish mozzarella sticks." Once the rolls had arrived and the bro had taken a bite, he described the order as "a mild tweak." According to their consumers (JT had one as well), the rolls were okay but not great. Not worth ordering again.


Mom and I split the Maroul salad, which she had gotten last time. It was a delectable mixture of shredded romaine, dill, scallions, and feta cheese. Light, salty, and tasty, it's a salad worth traveling to.

Crunchy, light, green, and white

After we finished our apps, we sat and waited. And waited. The wait for our entrees stretched on and on, long enough for me to begin picking the sesame seeds off my half-eaten roll. Finally, after our waiter assured us our dishes were coming right out, the entree course did arrive. First up: my mom's fish, the catch of the day. I believe it was dourade, prepared the same way as it was last time, with a green foamy sauce and a fried pepper on top. She enjoyed it, as she does all sea creatures.

Like froth from the sea.

For my entree, I got the grilled vegetable and haloumi salad, which I had so enjoyed last time. This time, I requested the chef go easy on the oil, because it was a wee bit oily last time. I'm not sure if that request was what did me in, but this version of the salad was not nearly as yummy as last time. The cheese, in particular, felt as though it had been grilled many moons ago and sat there for a while-- the edges were incredibly tough and oil-saturated, so much so that I wished I had had a steak knife to cut it properly. Taste-wise, it was still on point, but I was disappointed by the texture.

The cheese looks like chicken

Finally, JT and the bro had both gotten the lamb steak special, a fajita-esque sizzling skillet of lamb with a little arugula salad on top. Both consumers absolutely RAVED about the lamb. JT deemed it the best lamb he's ever had. Let's say that this dish produced two very contented customers, including one contented birthday boy, which did my heart good.

Best. Lamb. Ever.

So there we go. Needless to say, we had a Billy's Bakery birthday cake waiting at home, so we passed on dessert and headed home. While the pacing was a bit of a lapse in the otherwise up-to-par service, I will add one thing worth noting: About halfway through the meal, one of the drunk, loud idiots sitting at the table next to us spilled a glass of red wine, which splashed all over my umbrella and my purse. While the drunkard made no effort to apologize, at the end of the meal the manager of Pera came over, gave me his card, and told me if I had any dry cleaning bills as a result to send them his way. Not that I'm going to dry clean my purse (if I knew what other ridiculous crap was all over that purse, I probably would have dry cleaned it long ago, but as it stands... well, meh). But it was a very classy gesture. So while my food was a bit less stellar than last time, the raves from JT and the bro and the extra-mile effort from the manager mean that Pera keeps its four Offset Spatula designation. It's a truly great place for upscale, tasty, generally well-excuted Mediterranean food in a beautiful and buzzing dining room.
303 Madison Avenue, between 41st and 42nd Streets

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