Saturday, May 22, 2010

The outstanding food of Michael Psilakis

Lentil Salad

Red pepper salad

Peas, mushrooms and sauté  onions -cooked

Seafood yiouvetsi (orzo with seafood)

Halvas (tahini based sweet)

The Wines of Greek Tasting is already behind us with some great wines and more bitter comments. Despite the controversial perception of Greek wines in the US market by press, trade and top wine experts and why they sell or not, everybody agreed on the following: that the food provided and its presentation was exceptional, if not stunning. Compliments of chef Michael Psilakis - a Michelin star awarded chef- the food was appealing, fresh, tasty and balanced without being overwhelming or extreme. Creating signature dishes of Greek cuisine with a twist, Psilakis impressed the most demanding and often unsatisfied palates. The octopus salad casserole was well-balanced but not "very Greek", the lentil salad fresh and light, following mostly the Middle Eastern tradition (and avoiding the traditional Greek lentil soup) and the red pepper salad was served with grilled garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs (unusual for Greek restaurants). There was also a bowl of chickpea salad with tomatoes and parsley, a mix of mushroom, carrots, pickled peppers and haricots verts and the obvious and far more expected (and not so traditional in Greece) lamb with roasted potatoes. But the most outstanding of all was the seafood yiouvetsi (an orzo dish paired with meat in mainstream Greek cuisine rather with fish), a bold differentiation but a great surprise to my taste. I also found impressive and I welcome the baked mushroom mix with sauté onions and peas - a spring but cooked and not served fresh salad dish.

Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, except for the wine tasting stations, was "decorated" accordingly: large bowls of Greek yogurt paired with Cretan thyme honey; large vases with cherries, grapes and figs gave away a far more colorful presence;  baskets with pistachios, walnuts and roasted chickpeas mixed with golden raisins and cinnamon sticks; plates of feta and kaseri dishes with matching quince and preserves; dates and Cretan crunchy bread and finally the original Greek halva (a tahini-based sweet) - they well all stunning, tasty and unique food elements in a wine tasting event.

Is this the path Greek food should follow to become for attractive in the USA or the locals in the country will never forgive the chef?

I would opt for the first. The Greek cuisine is of high quality with exclusive flavors and tastes. Presentation is also paramount and a plus. Guests are still talking about it.