Small Bites readers get a sneak peek at restaurant reviews. Add your comments below and my editors and I will select a few that represent what readers are saying and publish them alongside the â€œofficialâ€ reviews in the Journal News on Wednesday.
This week, Jill and Deven Black look at the Greenhouse Cafe in Pearl River.
Deven Black and Jill Rovitzky Black
For The Journal News
The Greenhouse CafÃ© brings to mind memorable marketing themes like â€œTastes Great!/Less filling!â€ In that same vein, this Pearl River restaurant could accurately advertise, â€œItâ€™s a Greek restaurant!/Itâ€™s an Italian restaurant!â€
Big deal, you might say. Walk into practically any diner around and you can choose between chicken parm and moussaka. True enough, but the Greenhouse CafÃ© ranks several important notches above that experience, so that it bridges the gap between diner and dinner, by virtue of its focused menu, airy, plant-filled environment, and efficient and hospitable service that tells you that youâ€™re in experienced hands.
Going on the basis that despite its growing popularity, Greek food is still more elusive than Italian in these parts, we stay mostly toward the Greek side of the menu and have been rewarded, especially among the starters. The tatziki, akin to an Indian raita, has dense, tangy yogurt, refreshing cucumber, and the lively bite of garlic. On a hot summer night, you could get a double order and just make a dinner out of tatziki and pita.
Saganaki is another good choice. The salty cheese is served on fire, then doused with a squeezed lemon half at the table, giving you a blend of melty, toasty, and tart. (Safety note: If youâ€™re dining with cheese-loving children who are wowed by the spectacle, this is the time to use that time-honored phrase, â€œKids, donâ€™t try this at home.â€)
Spanokopita, often served as an appetizer, moves up to the entrÃ©e category here. A pair of the flaky, triangular spinach turnovers makes a tasty, albeit light, meal. Theyâ€™re served with a small bowl of applesauce. Itâ€™s not a bad combination, but a bit nontraditional. Call it a quirk of the house.
Itâ€™s important to note that the menu doesnâ€™t consist entirely of overtly Greek or Italian dishes. There are plenty of standard choices, with a focus on fish and seafood (thereâ€™s that Ionian Sea again), plus broiled chops, steaks, and chicken. One standout: the tender lamb shish kabob.
Another standout, this time from the dessert menu: the house-made cheesecake. Its excellent texture is halfway between a full-on creamy New York style and a drier Italian style â€” another example of the synergy that is at the heart of this restaurant. A subtle hint of lemon makes the cheesecake seem deceptively light, as if you could eat it for days with no consequence.
Thatâ€™s a danger, considering the size of the portion we were served. Prepare to share.
The synergy of location also boosts the appeal of the Garden CafÃ©: It adjoins a florist shop, plus has a wall full of windows that boast a line of impressively green and healthy hanging plants. All that flora and foliage add a special touch to the dÃ©cor.
All in all, the Greenhouse CafÃ© is a steady, reliable place. Itâ€™s not overtly formal or fancy; neither is it extremely casual. You wonâ€™t find cutting-edge creativity, but youâ€™ll find well-prepared, professionally served, tasty food â€” a solid bet for a dinner out.
165 N. Middletown Road, Pearl River.
Entrees $10 to $20
Lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Dinner only Sunday. Closed Monday.
Synergy is the name of the game here, with a menu that happily embraces classic Greek and Italian dishes, plus perennial favorites like steak, chops, roast chicken, and grilled fish, prepared with quiet expertise. You wonâ€™t get flashy creativity, but you can expect to be treated and fed well. Bonus: You will feel like youâ€™re eating in a greenhouse â€” the restaurant adjoins a florist shop and the windows are filled with improbably lush hanging plants.
Senior Appeal, Kid Friendly, Jeans OK, Vegetarian Friendly
What we liked (name a few dishes)
Spanokopita, saganaki, tatziki, chicken parmesan, lamb shish kabob, cheesecake