It’s easy to check your worries at the door at Anassa Taverna—there are worry beads, a Greek and Cypriot cultural artifact meant to relax and de-stress, hanging in the doorway. A mouthwatering menu of Traditional Greek dishes doesn’t hurt either.
Even though the space feels new, the décor is decidedly traditional, evoking a weatherworn wooden house by the sea off a cobble-stoned street in the ancient city of Plaka. Exposed, white-washed brick walls, dotted with old-timey lanterns, and beams of raw, light wood complete the transporting effect. Translated into English, ‘Anassa’ means ‘breath of fresh air,’ and diners get plenty of it with street-facing window walls that usher in cool breezes when open.
The appetizers are what you’d expect from a Greek grandmother’s cookbook. A twisted, rustic-looking spinach pie, with a flaky, crispy exterior made of handmade phyllo dough, is stuffed with scallions, leeks, dill and melted feta. The experience of consuming—tearing at the warm morsel and splitting among all at the table—is as Greek as can be. You’ll be less willing to share the octopus, though: Tender, warm Mediterranean octopus is charcoal-broiled—the edges ever-so-slightly blackened—with a finishing layer of onions, capers and seasoned olive oil. The flavor is delicate and addictive. This was no rubber tire affair. This was bliss. Good enough to make you wish that octopi had more than eight tentacles.
When one can’t decide between a dish from the sea and a dish from the land, why not take both? The Chilean sea bass, oven-baked and served with onions, pototoes, tomatoes and herbs, drizzled in a red broth, was fresh, simple and satisfying. The real star was the grilled lamb chops, plated with roasted potatoes, grilled tomatoes and tantalizingly creamy tzatziki sauce. Moist and nearly rare.
Baklava makes the perfect bookend—because no Greek meal is complete without it. Anassa Taverna’s iteration impresses: Sheets of golden-brown phyllo are layered with almonds, walnuts and a dreamy honey-orange syrup. A nut-studded slice of euphoria. Each bite, with interludes of vanilla ice cream, sets the taste buds to sail on the Mediterranean sea.
>>Anassa Taverna, 200 E. 60th St., 212.371.5200