Ever since Craig LeBan's glowing 3-bell review of Kanella, the place has been packed. Every evening as I walk by I see happy diners digging into delicious dishes. Elizabeth & I finally got our chance to be among them last week.
We went on a Wednesday night around 8:30 and, after putting our name in the book, ended up waiting about 30 minutes down the block at Tria for a table to open up. The chef charged out of the kitchen and was taking bookings on the phone, darted around the tables checking in with diners, and then strode back into the kitchen all in the time we were being seated and settling in. This place was definitely buzzing.
We were greeted with bread & dip and warm and friendly service. Although it was obvious that they were a bit behind, they were still handling the rush well.
We started with the fried Halloumi cheese, served with a fresh, zesty salad. Crispy coated with a dense, firm texture..this satisfied our craving for cheese.
The dolmades arrived alongside a cabbage salad and a softer cheese-like yogurt ball (labneh?). We weren't familiar with the stuffing inside the dolmades, somewhat more savory than the bulgar-based dolmades we've always made, but the leaves had that great tannic flavor and were toothsome enough.
This feta & thyme stuffed pastry was delicious; firm, chewy cheese combined with butter & thyme, it was like a Cypriotic version of cheese-stuffed sopapillas. While the honey made for a sweeter-than-normal appetizer, the sweet beet salad brought a more earthy & subtle sweetness to the flaky pastry. The combo of beet & honey salad was something we'd run across at Zahav recently, but paired up with the pastry it completed the dish.
At this point we were getting excited about the accompanying salads with each successive dish as plate after plate came out with a different fresh garnish.
The veal cheeks were on special that evening...fork-tender and oozing with a moist pan-sauce. This was the first time I'd even eaten a veal cheek, but I'd say this is a step up from something like a lamb shank...similar texture but much less pronounced and without the more gelatinous character you get with shanks sometimes.
Everything I read about Kanella said to try the lamb salad...let me add my voice to the chorus. We're suckers for good warmed green salads, but the ground lamb was perfectly cooked, with enough grill flavor but still moist and without alot of binding agent.If I'm in the neighborhood around lunch time, I'm stopping in here with my own pita and scoop the contents of this plate up in it.
As our meal was winding down, the chef stopped at our table and asked us genuinely enough what we thought. I hinted at a question about how much business had picked up after the 3-bell review, but we didn't really get a sense that it had made a difference on the way they handled service or prepared the meals. Our waiter jokingly said that he was the one whom CraigLeBan called in his review the 'soft-talker'...I didn't spot the Masterpiece Theater waiter that evening.