Walked by this place many times and we finally decided to try it out on one of those evenings when we could not make up our minds on what to eat. Could never really tell what was inside as the outside is understated and windows have thick lace curtains on them. Walking inside I was greeted by a wonderful dark wood bistro with candles all around, terrific lighting accents, mid-eighties Euro type paintings on the walls, and a warm welcoming little bar. Definitely more of an older adult crowd that gathers here at Peri Ela on the Upper East Side of NYC.
Even though we did not have reservations the hostess was very kind and offered us a table by a window that seated four. Happy to get it as many people piled in after us and all tables were taken. We were handed the menus, and wow, what a selection of food. Obviously, very Turkish inspired selections with a touch of Greek/Mediterranean to it. Since we wanted to try out a few things, but were not totally starving, we went with the “Meze and Wine For Two”. For $30 you get a bottle of Turkish wine (red or white) and a plate with hummus, smoked eggplant, red beans, ezme (chopped veggies and walnuts), and fried eggplant. Great deal! It is kind of tapas style so you get a sampling of each. I thought this might not be enough food so we also added the cheese cigar borak ( lightly fried phyllo stuffed with feta cheese – YUM ) and it was served as four pieces on a plate. A basket of warm fluffy bread was also served, along with a small plate of olives in oil.
Wow – was this all more than enough! When we had it all placed on our table we knew we were in for a feast! It did not look like a lot, but it all more than filled us up. The hummus was smooth and tasty on that warm bread. Each selection on the plate had a distinct flavor all its own. The fried eggplant and ezme were delish, and the smoked eggplant was a surprise. But the phyllo stuffed with feta was the bomb! It was like eating dessert! Wish I had some honey to drizzle on it! Along with the Turkish red wine, which was a decent dry style, it all made for a terrific little meal. Just perfect for good conversation over light dining fare.
At this point we had to try the desserts. At $5-$7 each we decided to try two – the baklava and the almond pudding with pistachio topping as our waitress told us these were two of her favorites. The baklava was moist, tasty, and wonderful. It is served three on a plate with pistachio crumbles on them. I can’t describe how amazing the almond pudding was. It took us by surprise. The consistency was a little softer than normal pudding, and it had thin almond slivers throughout and pistachio crumbles on top. We could not stop eating it and if I could I would have pushed my whole face in the glass it was served in to lick out every last drop! I have no shame when it comes to my gluttony!
We were pleasantly surprised by Peri Ela. Our waitress was friendly and attentive, and overall service was very good. You never feel rushed here, even when the place is full of diners. The mood exhibits a casual chic vibe, but not too fancy, with a dimly lit atmosphere that adds to the character. Euro type music is playing in the background at a low-level. Almost like a quiet speakeasy. The small bar area always had around 4-5 people having cocktails and deep in discussions. Just a very adult type place to unwind and have a quiet dinner or drinks. We will definitely go back to try out more of the entrees on the menu as some plates we saw others eating looked terrific. A hidden gem uptown indeed.
Peri Ela – http://www.periela.com/