When restaurant week was extended, the most important question was where else we wanted to go. Pera was Suzanne’s pick, a midtown restaurant I’d yet to hear of but whose selection warranted a visit. We learned that they have a live ensemble playing in the bar area on Friday evenings. Even better, they managed to be enjoyable without being too dominating of a presence in the dining area. Definite plus. Interesting thing to note, you actually have to reserve a spot to sit at the bar. Definitely not the norm.
For appetizers, we decided to split each of the two selections, and we went with the Portuguese fried calamari and the maroul salad. The Portuguese fried calamari was lightly breaded and had some kick, paired with soujouk – an amazingly flavorful spicy sausage which was just the right amount of salty – as well as pickled peppers. Nice mix of flavors and a departure from the standard preparation of heavy breading and lemon for accent. The maroul salad was refreshing – nice balance to the fried calamari. The greens were fresh and the salad was a light option, composed of shredded romaine hearts, dill, scallion, feta cheese, lemon and extra-virgin olive oil. I’d like to see a bit more of the flavors come through as each element was a bit too subtle to shine through.
For mains, we chose the Pera Steak Frites, a marinated hanger steak with seasoned fries, marash chili butter and homemade steak sauce. The steak was thinly sliced and the preparation was a bit less done than preferred (a rather pink variation on medium). The chili butter was a nice flavor, almost making the homemade steak sauce taste generic and bland. The fries were heavily dusted with Mediterranean seasoning that made me sad to think of eating regular fries again. I’d recommend skipping the steak sauce and focusing on the steak and fries here.
We also tried the fresh lamb “adana”, which was fresh ground lamb which marinated with eastern mediterranean spices and was served with a generous sized portion of fresh pillowy bread. The lamb was flavorful, but I wouldn’t say it was the best I have had. The lamb was a bit on the dry side, which made for a dry combo with the bread. Sure, I could have just abstained from the bread, but if you think that’s happening, well then we don’t know each other well enough. Yet. Not bad, but definitely not the best lamb I have come across.
We both elected to try their baklava for dessert, prepared with peeled turkish pistachios and light syrup. The use of light syrup was noticeable from taste to touch. Typically, I find my fingers stuck together after eating baklava. Not the case here (or at least not so pronounced). And as far as taste is concerned, the sweet taste was present, but not overwhelmingly so. It was a nice change as it allowed for the flavor of pistachios to really shine through. Most of the reviews I read going into dinner did not think so highly of the baklava. For the record, I highly disagree. It was a nice dinner, for sure. I’m not sure I’ll be back for a full dinner, though I wouldn’t mind checking out their special with appetizers offered during happy hour.
Pera – 303 Madison Avenue (at E 41st Street) – 212.878.6301
Reservations Recommended (peak nights)