Think Ancient Greece, and immediately you think, the center of Western Civilization. But for centuries the Greeks were under Ottoman Turkish rule, leaving them with a culinary tradition that is very similar to that of Turkey and the Levant, using many of the same essential ingredients of the eastern Mediterranean like olive oil, yoghurt, eggplants, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
I had been wanting to have some Greek food for a while, and I wanted to find a Middle Eastern restaurant close to Columbia that wasn’t Falafel on Broadway or Amir’s. One restaurant that had great reviews was Kefi on 85th and Columbus, so I decided to try it out.
I went with a friend who is a fan of Greek food, and we went all out; we ordered a mezze platter for two and a Greek salad to start, then he ordered souvlaki and I had a roast chicken with lemon, garlic, and potatoes, and we ended with a traditional walnut cake.
It was a lot of food, but there was no regret. The mezze platter consisted of yoghurt, chickpeas, eggplant, and “caviar” dips. The first three were very familiar to me. They were basically labneh, hummus, baba ghanoush, and they were great in this platter. The last one was something I had never had before as a mezze. It was fish roe, and I did not find it to be very great. That was because it was not very flavorful, and I was probably a little bit shocked that fish roe would be on a mezze platter. The Greek salad that we had was not as good as others I’ve had. It was missing the briney olives and salty feta that I love in a Greek salad.
Next came the main dishes. My friend found his pork souvlaki to be very succulent, and the rice that came with it well seasoned with lemon juice and parsley, giving it freshness. The roast chicken was delicious: the chicken itself was juicy, flavorful, and had a very crispy skin – my favorite part of roast chicken. It was paired with a delightful, creamy lemon and garlic sauce smothering perfectly roasted, melt-in-your-mouth potatoes.
Finally, we had a moist, mildly sweet walnut cake topped with sugar and with walnut ice cream on the side. If there is one reason why you should go to Kefi, it’s for the walnut ice cream. It was fantastic.
The mediocre salad and strange fish roe mezze aside, Kefi was a great experience for me and my friend. It has made it into our list of go-to Middle Eastern restaurants around Columbia. I hope you give it a try!
Oh, and, Happy Restaurant Week! May your restaurant holiday season be filled with good company and great food.