Thursday, May 28, 2009

Effie's is...Iffy?

With all the attention that Cypriot BYOB Kanella has been getting in Washington Square West, we thought it would only be fair to try out Effie's, an unassuming Greek BYOB just a few blocks away. Effie's has a reputation for courtyard seating and decent standards, like octopus and lamb, so we stopped in on a Wednesday to sample the offerings.

They were a little jammed up and grabbing a courtyard table, which seemed relatvely easy for 8:30PM on a Wednesday, was out of the question. As we waited to be seated in a two-top along Pine Street we amused ourselves watching the cooks tackling orders while grill-smoke pouring out of the tiny open kitchen.

The first course of calamari was perfectly done. This was some of the best calamari we've had in a long time; if you've read some of our other reviews, you know that we use calamari as the baseline for judging how much care and attention a kitchen puts into the food.

At first glance, it should be an easy dish to make...pull it from a prep dish, batter/bread and deep fry, then serve...but so many kitchens really blow this one, through bad pre-made ingredient, poorly mixed or seasoned coating or due to innatentively over cooking the calamari into fried rubber bands...oh let me count the ways that you can ruin thee.

Effie's calamari was a perfect balance of light, crispy coating, just salty & seasoned enough with tender squid rings beneath. Served still warm, this was a sign of good things to come.

The sampler platter was a decent smattering of bulgar stuffed grape leaves, an eggplant dip, soem hummus, cheese and peppers...consistency of the dips were smooth and flavors pronounced...a well-done, if not basic, appetizer. Served with pita points, a decent way to pass the evening over a glass of wine.

Mains brought both great grilling and gritty greens. The lamb rack was perfectly seasoned & grilled, albeit a little on the medium side of medium rare. Resting on a bed of mac & cheese orzo, this was Greek comfort food...except for the sand.

The dish was ruined with the ring of gritty greens that had not been throughly wife's first bite into them yeilded that 'tween the teeth crunch that kills your appetite...she asked me to try another piece to see if it was a fluke, but after one or two more bites from different bunches of greens the slack-luster prep was apparent. She picked her way around the sides while enjoying the lamb.

I ordered Lamb Lemonato, the lemon potato and lamb dish...basically cubed, grilled lamb & roasted potatos drenched in an lemon-oil sauce. The potatos were hit or miss due to their irregular sizes...some over-cooked & withered, other larger chunks on the edge of doneness, an occasional well-roasted wedge...Seems like short-cut prep strikes again.

The lamb mostly appeared in small scraps and was a little gristly..however, those sizeable chunks that could be found amongst the potatos were decently seasoned and cooked...I found myself digging through the cubes of spud in search of those few remaining lamb chunks that were hiding shadows of my plate created by the al fresco street lighting.

Final verdict? Great place for appetizers. They had actually 86'd two of the apps we wanted to try (tomato tart and the grilled octupus, a favrotie from what I can gather), so we may be back to try those and get some more calamari.

We're staying away from the entrees though...seemed like the poor prep went by unnoticed by the chef making it to the plate. Those sides sabotaged what could've been some great lamb dishes.

Most of the other customers leaving seemed happy though, so maybe it was just a fluke or that fact that we ordered at the end of a busy shift and were left picking through our entrees looking for the delicatable bits...but Effie's stuck us as Iffy's.

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