As most people who live on the Upper East Side know the 2nd Avenue subway construction has been greatly affecting the businesses in the area, and they need support, as many have gone under over the past few years. Not too long ago we took advantage of the first Restaurant Week of the Upper East Side with many eateries offering a 20% discount, or a $20.16 three course dinner in honor of the year this monstrosity is supposed to be completed. (I’ll believe that when I see it!) Now, as we often do when going out for dinner we normally stay close to our area. As creatures of habit sometimes we need to force ourselves to travel elsewhere but with so many terrific restaurants in our part of town to tempt our taste buds and tickle our palates there is really no reason to travel far from our apartment. One of the spots we like for some Greek delight is Ithaka. A long time mainstay serving up great food in a fun, classy, but casual environment.
Good thing we made reservations as the place was packed that night! As you walk in you are greeted by whitewashed walls with wood accents, Greek centric pictures and knick knacks hanging all around, dark wood beams centered across the white ceiling, curved arches reminicent of Greek architecture. It almost looks like a restaurant pulled right out of the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Crowd definitely leans to the older side, as it looks like a lot of the senior folks who live in the hood are regulars here. The crowd even made us feel like youngsters eating at the kiddie table. It’s the type of place to bring mom and dad to when visiting. The special deal did bring in more of a mixed crowd though as it was filled with a diverse clientele. Who cares about the crowd as the food is what counts, and it is wonderful here! Totally fresh with a homemade comfort feel to it, as if an old Grecian grandma is cooking in the kitchen using her recipe book handed down from her mom and grandma.
As we sat down a basket of warm bread and soft pita slices were placed on the white tablecloth. Olive tapenade was a perfect and fitting spread. We chose a bottle of sparkling water that our waiter placed on ice to keep chilled. For our first course we both had a Greek salad. Basic stuff but with a very tasty dressing. As our main entrees we dove into the Vegetarian Mousaka – layers of eggplant, tomato, zucchini, potato, topped with béchamel sauce, and the Psari Plaki – their daily fillet of fish (striped bass) baked with feta cheese, fresh tomato sauce, fresh herbs, onions and garlic. Both came with rice, potato, and crisp vegetables. Nice plating too. I have to admit that both were outstanding! The fish was moist and flaky perfection. The mousaka was flavorful and filling. It even felt like we were eating wholesome and healthy prepared food which it realy was! Nothing frozen or processed here.
Now came the fun part – dessert! As I had been dieting there had been no room for much enjoyment, but I had to try the Loukoumades as our third course. These were warm, fluffy, drizzled with honey, sweet and zeppole-like. OMG. Good thing there were only two per serving, as I could have eaten a dozen of these! Perfect end to a satisfying meal.
The decor might be a bit stereotypical but it’s very clean, warm, and inviting. The Grecian look and feel adds to the overall charm of the place. The service on this evening was impeccable. I mean, our waiter Gus ( you can’t get more Greek than Gus! ), was super friendly and attentive. Not pushy at all and very cool with us ordering from the 2nd Ave Restaurant Week menu, even though he also presented us with the normal menu. At only $20.16 for a three course meal it was a terrific deal. We had more than enough food to fill us up and keep us content. Seemed like all of the staff here were top notch. Water glasses always filled, attentive waiter, and the manager came by to chat and see if we were enjoying our meals. The type of stuff that makes us want to come back to dine here again.
Definitely not the kind of dinner meant for take out or delivery, as I feel that would ruin it and take away from the home cooked sit down flavor and enjoyment. This type of food is meant to be savored hot and fresh at a leisurely pace. Sit down, relax, and enjoy!
Overall, it was a terrific deal to try out a spot that we had not been at in quite a while. Regular menu is on the pricey side, as many of the plates are seafood based and Greek specialties. Still would be worth it for a nice dinner out as the quality is well worth the cost. Can get a bit loud in there so its also a prime spot to bring those boisterous family units that like to laugh and be heard.