The Land of Honey

| October 1, 2012

Located at the intersection of Murray Hill and Midtown, right off of Fifth Avenue, the brand new Meli (translated from Greek means honey), is an upscale celebration of Greek cuisine. With contemporary interpretations of traditional dishes from a variety of Greek regions, this was a memorable feast and one that I look forward to repeating in the not too distant future.

The restaurant is a beautifully designed space that is modern, yet paying homage to the rich history of Greece. The main dining room is alive and vibrant with a very high ceiling and a beautiful array of oversized, backlit photos capturing Greece’s glorious landscape and history. Additional works from acclaimed photographer Peter Lik are on display throughout the restaurant and bring a deep warmth to the overall ambiance.

We decided to do an extensive tasting, to truly explore what was on offer. Starting with the Tuna Tartar (finely chopped, sushi-grade tuna, scallions, Fresno chilies, taramosalata), Crab Cakes (Jumbo lump crab meat, cucumber cole-slaw and Meli tartar sauce) and Octopus (charcoal- grilled octopus, roasted pepper, onions, capers) was a prudent decision. Everything was extraordinarily fresh, beautifully balanced and executed to perfection. At times, crab cakes can be hit or miss, but these were spot on and highly recommended.

As we were enjoying a cocktail pairing with these dishes, it is certainly noteworthy to mention the Twisted Caipirinha (muddle limes and honey syrup, elderflower liquor, tequila and  fresh lime juice) and the Skinny Pina Colada (Ciroc coconut, pineapple juice, garnished with fresh basil)—two beautiful interpretations with a truly original twist.
To break things up a bit we went for the traditional Beets and Skordalia (roasted baby beets, garlic feta spread). Admittedly, it took quite a bit of willpower to not lick my plate. Simple, traditional—exquisite.

Next up were the Scallops Katalfi (sea scallops wrapped in shredded filo, lemon sauce and honey Greek balsamic reduction), the Saganaki (Baked graviera cheese lemon herb sauce) and the Meli Keftedes (grilled, mini-meatballs of ground lamb, veal, beef and a zucchini, yogurt, garlic fig dip). Paired with a Murray Hill Tea Time (green tea vodka, fresh and Rose’s lime juice and a splash of cola) this was another extremely pleasant segment of our journey through the regions of Greece.

Moving on to the main dishes, we eagerly dove into the Goges (cavatelli pasta, goat and lamb butter, vlahotiri cheese) and the Beef Short Ribs (braised boneless short ribs with raki and honey, over wild mushroom risotto). Though both delicious, the story of how the cavatelli is made by hand, by a group of elderly women and imported to grace our plate, captivated both my romantic side and my taste buds.

After imbibing one last time with the Old Fashion Ouzo (with orange juice, muddle orange, cherries and a splash of club soda), whose powers as an effective digestif took hold, we magically had room for the dessert trio including Yogurt Mousse Cake (rich, Greek yogurt whipped with mountain thyme honey, chef’s seasonal fruit), Baklava (traditional baklava layered with toasted whole almonds, spiced honey syrup) and Greek Yogurt (with honey soaked rose petals),a fitting and sweet ending to an extraordinary meal.

Meli is well positioned to stand the test of time as all the components are in place—charming ambiance, excellent service and of course, top-rate food.
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