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MP Taverna: Greek with a Difference in Nearby Roslyn

The evolution of Greek dining in America has turned up another notch with MP Taverna in Roslyn.

First there were diners, then the next generations opened fancier restaurants, and now award-winning chef Michael Psalikis has returned to his ancestral home, bringing us Greek traditions with his very own approach. In opening MP Taverna, Psilakis returns to Long Island where he was raised.

Psilakis says he is trying to bring Greek food into the mainstream so that when diners are considering where to eat, “let’s eat Greek,” can be a choice.

At MP Taverna there are no white walls nor pictures of the blue Agean; the music is Frank Sinatra. “I’m trying to break the ethnic barrier,” says Psilakis, who had the place designed in the manner of a steakhouse, with wooden floors and a huge oval bar. “It doesn’t have to look Greek to be Greek,” he says.

Psilakis has accrued many food world high honors including Food & Wine’s Best New Chef, Chef of the Year from Bon Appetit and Esquire and a James Beard Award nomination for Best New Restaurant for Anthos, his modern Greek restaurant in New York City (now closed because the building was sold). Athos was one of only two Greek restaurants in the world to receive a Michelin star. Plilakis’ cookbook, How to Roast a Lamb (published in 2009, won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Foreign Cuisine. Currently, in addition to MP Taverna, he owns two restaurant on the Upper West Side: Kefi and Fishtag. Two years ago, to mark Greek Independence Day, Psilakis cooked a special meal in the White House.

A meal at MP Taverna can start with small plates, called mezethes, or the mezethes can be a meal unto themselves. It is typically Greek to have a tableful of mezethes that are shared by the diners and enhanced with wine, ouzo or raki.

For our meze course we had meatballs with olives, onion and tomato sauce; octopus with a Mediterranean chickpea salad; and crispy cod with garlic and potato puree and tomato sauce, served with a thick piece of toast to sop up the delicious gravy. There were spicy pork ribs that had been marinated for eight hours and then slow cooked. They were very meaty, succulent and tender. Loukaniko, Greek sausage, an intense sausage that they describe as a cross between Italian sausage and cured Italian salami, was dressed with lemon and olive oil.

We decided not to have a salad but the bulghar salad with date, almond, pomegranate, olive and pistachio will surely be tried on our next visit.

I couldn’t resist the lamb burger. It was served on a good tasting roll with a spicy feta spread and a side of smashed potatoes.

We could have stopped but went on to the grilled branzino with fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes and olives.

George Pappas, the manager and wine expert, made excellent suggestions for wines to have with the meal. Staying with the theme of the restaurant, we chose Greek but there are numerous, well described other choices and a huge beer collection with 10 on tap and 30 craftbeers and the usual assortment of domestic beers. The wine can be order by half-glass, full glass, half bottle and whole bottle.

Dessert was as interesting as the rest of the meal. Our favorite was baklava Napolen with maple walnut ice cream and metaxa (Greek brandy/wine) spiced cream. It was all capped with French press coffee and thick Greek coffee. Fresh brewed loose tea is also available.

“Opa,” we say.

1363 Old Northern Blvd

Roslyn, NY 11576

516-686-6456

www.mptaverna.com

Lunch: Mon-Fri from noon to 3 pm

Brunch: Sat & Sun from 11 am to 3 pm

Dinner: Mon-Thu from 3 to 10 pm; Fri & Sat from 3 to 11 pm; Sun from 3 to 9 pm

Meze prices range from $7.50 to $12.00; entrees from $15 to $27.

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