PHOTOS BY CATHY PINSKY
The lamb burger is juicy without being greasy and is accompanied by stellar twice-fried potatoes.
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Spacious booths line the walls at MP Taverna.
Many restaurants have one dish for which they become known—the scallop dish was one of several that could be signature dishes for MP Taverna. Another might be the smoky, tender grilled octopus with crisp, slightly charred edges, which was served atop a chickpea salad that flaunted all that was good about the octopus—and stood out on its own for its lovely starchy-acidic balance.
Avowed carnivores might order the gyro-seasoned sliders, an appetizer of three small burgers that combined the best of a moist, messy burger with compelling gyro flavors. Yes, it is a fun idea—but here it is turned into a dish that could make the restaurant a destination. Or, you might come here for the lamb burger. It is served with fried, smashed, and refried potato wedges that may be the best “fries” this county has seen, but stands on its own as a juicy (not greasy) burger with more meaty flavor per square inch than most burgers have in three quarters of a pound.
And still, those are not the best of MP Taverna. The dish that captivated our food-lusting souls is listed on the menu as “dumplings.” Picture light, ethereal ricotta gnudi dressed with a robust sauce of sun-dried and fresh tomatoes, spinach and feta cheese, and hints of spicy, intensely savory flavor from lamb sausage—and now top the whole thing with buttery toasted breadcrumbs. That is a signature dish. (By the way, imagine paying only $15 per nice big plate of these so-called dumplings. Makes it even better, doesn’t it?)
As with all the menu items, dessert was generally a matter of executing classic Greek dishes very well, often adding a creative flourish, and not calling these dishes by their usual names.
At our table, dueling spoons dove into the galaktoboureko parfait, a dish that deconstructed and tweaked the traditional semolina custard pie. The addition of smoked almonds, orange, honey, and crispy kataifi only made this beloved dish better, and we will forevermore prefer it in a glass.
As much as we loved the galaktoboureko, top prize is a tie between the baked apple baklava Napoleon and the outrageously simple Greek yogurt with honey and seeds. Yes, the latter sounds like breakfast—but it tastes like more like something that happens at midnight. Rich, thick, mouth-coating Greek yogurt—nothing like the supermarket version—is sprinkled with a generous helping of seeds that sound too healthy to be tasty, but truly are, then doused with sexy, aromatic wildflower honey. It is big enough to share, and you should. Trust us when we say this dish is nearly pornographic.
In the great war of desserts, the apple baklava Napoleon is a worthy adversary. Metaxa-spiked whipped cream, toasted almonds, and homey apple compote were sandwiched between three layers of crispy, golden phyllo, and finished with a sprinkling of coarse salt.
If you love beautifully and expertly executed food the way we do, we think you will now understand that even if it hadn’t been handled as absolutely perfectly as it was, that spilled beer might not have been enough to deter us from returning to MP Taverna.
MP Taverna â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…
One Bridge St, Irvington
(914) 231-7854; michaelpsilakis.com
Hours: lunch, Mon to Fri noon-3 pm; dinner, Sun to Thurs 3 pm-10 pm, Fri & Sat 3 pm-11 pm; brunch, Sat & Sun 11 am-3 pm
Appetizers: $8-$13; entrées: $13-$22; desserts: $5-$8
â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…—Outstanding â˜…â˜…â˜…—Very Good