Executive Chef and principal owner Christos Christou also runs the original Yefsi on the Up.
There is a disconnect between Yefsi’s modern-men’s-club décor of leather banquettes and dark wood, and its Mediterranean, earthy, and often vibrant flavors.
The amiable, attentive service, fortunately, is more akin to the lusty, simple, and down-to-earth flavors than it is to the streamlined design and dim amber lighting.
Hummus, served to every table before the meal, is coarse and appealingly lemony; the non-distinct bread with which it is served is merely a vehicle for transporting it to the mouth.
Go easy on the dip, though, because there are many starters worth trying. Yefsi chips, thin slices of lightly battered eggplant and zucchini, are fried just long enough to form a light, crisp, golden crust over the soft, surprisingly flavorful vegetable inside. Though served with a thick, creamy tzatziki dip, when eaten unadorned, the flavor and texture of the vegetable — especially the eggplant — could convert those who are not usually of the eggplant persuasion.
Dorado, which is presented whole, butterflied, and deboned on the plate, is a good alternative for those of us who have eaten one too many branzini. While dorado, in general, is slightly firmer than branzino, it was a little on the dry side here, although it had lovely, mild flavor — and not a single pin bone. Meaty striped bass, on the other hand, was served with a white wine sauce that kept it moist and was topped with a tomato-and-onion ragout that enhanced the subtle flavor of the fish.
There was nothing subtle about the robust and assertive flavor and generous portion of the calves liver starter. The small club of liver lovers should make this the location of their next fan-club meeting. We’ll join the meeting and fawn over the browned chunks of meat tempered by rich, slightly acidic wine sauce and the sharp hit of scallion and capers. A word of warning: While billed as an appetizer, this (with a starter or side) can easily be a meal.
Three tender, juicy lamb chops also delivered robust flavor but stopped short of getting gamey. A dose of grilled char helped enhance their meatiness but let the lamb flavor stay center stage. The chops were served with the classic Greek lemon potatoes (which may also be ordered as a side) that are one of reasons Greek food is beloved in the US.
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Potatoes fared equally well when served as crispy fries alongside the 22-ounce Black Angus rib-eye. The steak itself, however, didn’t have the meaty, bold flavor of the rib-eye and was surprisingly tough when served medium-rare.
On another visit, those same fries were less crispy and seasoned — but this time around, they came on a plate with bifteki: savory slider-sized patties of ground Angus beef and kefalograviera cheese that oozed juice and dripped with flavor.
While there are many good entrées to choose from, some of the stars of our meals were the starters. We’d return in a nanosecond for the grilled octopus served with capers, red onion, and a vinaigrette. This jazzed-up version of the classic grilled-octopus plate is nearly on par with the crazy-good octopus chickpea salad served at Irvington’s MP Taverna — both have spoiled our enjoyment of the classic version.
Fried calamari was not in any way different from what you’d expect, but it was perfectly executed: Golden, crisp, lightly battered rings allowed the flavor of the tender squid to come through. It was served with an especially pungent, garlicky sauce that we smelled and tasted for many hours after the meal and that we will forgo in the future. But that won’t stop us from devouring another order of the calamari. Similarly, we’ll order that thin, warm slab of salty, rich, baked feta served over unctuous eggplant purée, all offset with a sweet balsamic glaze.
The desserts were traditional and good, though not extraordinary. Baklava was just as it should be: flaky, sweet, and very nutty. Galaktoboureko, a custard cake wrapped in phyllo, was like a lighter cheesecake and a lovely companion with which to linger after dinner. Even better was the traditional karidopita, a nutcake with syrup that was not overly sweet but tasted of its honey beginnings.
Yefsi may not look the part of a warm, comfortable restaurant, but the appealing, accessible food and gentle, caring service make this a restaurant worth returning to time and again.
219 Main St, Eastchester