Kellari Taverna

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Kellari Taverna
Midtown West
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19 W 44th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-221-0144). Subway: B, D, F, V to 42nd St--Bryant Park; 7 to Fifth Ave. Daily 5:30pm--midnight. Average main course: $19.

Greek menus can be intimidating on many levels. First there’s the aki suffix—not just in souvlaki, but, at a high-end restaurant like this, in lavraki (a fish), spanaki (a salad) and an entire saganaki “bar,” a.k.a. a selection of Greek “cheeses dishes.” These and others are all on the menu at Kellari, a giant addition to midtown overseen by Costas Tsingas—executive chef for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece. The other scary thing about Greek restaurants are their obscure Mediterranean fish, vaguely described as delicate, moist or mild. This is indeed how it pans out at Kellari, but all is not lost: One Greek server chimed in with useful advice during every course. She not only explained why the lavraki was a better choice for us than the sargos: She brought samples to our table, discussed portion sizes and made sure we didn’t end up ordering a $100 whole fish—something that can happen when you buy your entres by the pound. She was especially useful before dessert, when we labored over what to eat and drink—not ouzo, which is apparently more of an aperitif, but dessert wines and spirits (Greek equivalents to Madeira and grappa). Of note to niche-interest diners: The space is not designed for intimate seduction, but can ably and attractively host large groups. The Mediterranean-heavy wine list of 250 bottles includes 36 by the glass. And there are a number of exotic meat dishes—lamb offal, veal cheeks and kid goat—which, when compared with everything else on the menu, suddenly seem like the least intimidating choices.—TONY

Venue name: Kellari Taverna
Contact:
Address: 19 W 44th St
New York

Cross street: between Fifth and Sixth Aves
Opening hours: Daily 5:30pm–midnight
Transport: Subway: B, D, F, V to 42nd St–Bryant Park; 7 to Fifth Ave
Price: Average main course: $19. AmEx, MC, V
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