Been To MP Taverna in Irvington Yet? No? Then Check Out This Review… With a Bonus Video Tour by Chef Michael Psilakis

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Chef Michael Psilakis has a video tour of his new restaurant, MP Taverna in Irvington:

I suppose this is as good a time as any, then, to post photos of my recent lunch there. I had the lamb burger. Yes, it’s all that — and more.

I love the tang and the extra juiciness that the lamb brings to the table.

There were a bunch of us for lunch, and it was hard to really concentrate and taste everyone’s dish, but I will say we didn’t have a clunker in the bunch. The shared appetizers, were, clockwise from top right, fried calamari with cauliflower and chickpeas, crab croquettes with lemon-garlic remoulade, and the trio of dips (yogurt, eggplant and chickpea):

We adored the cauliflower and the chickpeas, hidden like little pearls within the tangle of calamari. The croquettes were crispy and fresh and the dips were all very flavorful, but the eggplant was our favorite.

After the jump, a few more dishes, plus Bill Cary’s Restaurants We Love article on MP Taverna from a few weeks back.

Two of my dining companions got the paccheri pasta.

With eggplant, capers, olives, pepper and tomato, it was reminiscent of a puttanesca, but with a Greek twist.

Another got the branzino with fingerling potatos, cherry tomatoes, olives and garlic.

The skin was ever-so-crispy and the fish moist and flaky. Very good.

Our last friend got the souvlaki.

I barely got a taste, but remember liking it quite a bit.

And here’s another photo of my lamb burger:

Lunch, check. Dinner? Definitely on the list.

Here’s what Bill Cary had to say about his experience, with beautiful photos by Xavier Mascarenas.

Restaurants We Love: MP Taverna

What a treat to have Michael Psilakis, the celebrated Greek chef who has created several culinary hits in Manhattan, making his first foray into Westchester.

He opened MP Taverna in Irvington in May, and he’s clearly found a crowd eager to sample his accessible, pared down Greek fare. At 8 p.m. on a recent Tuesday, every table at the stylish waterfront taverna was taken.

In the airy Bridge Street warehouse space most recently occupied by Day Boat Cafe, Psilakis has created a warm, inviting and kind of swank take on a traditional Greek taverna. It’s a big comfortable room, with a separate bar area that’s also quite roomy.

We settled into one of the many booths and got things going with the Angouri cocktail, a refreshing concoction of house-infused cucumber vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and lime juice. We’re not usually fans of specialty cocktails — just bring us a no-fuss, straight-up vodka martini, please, or a Maker’s Mark Manhattan, depending on the weather. But this one really hit the spot on a muggy, steamy weeknight.

We love the menu. It’s very reasonably priced and full of different ways to go — dips and appetizers, a burger or a sandwich, tapas-style small plates, a summer salad perhaps, or maybe you’re in the mood for a standard meat-and-potatoes entree. As far as prices, most of the dinner entrees come in at under $20, with appetizers in the $10 range. You could come for an expansive evening or just stop by for a nice bite for not much money. Do save room for dessert, though — they are delicious here, an unexpected surprise.

My dining companion and I decided to share three appetizers — scallops, meatballs and grilled octopus — and then move on to separate entrees, an intriguing sounding Greek paella (with orzo, not rice) and grilled branzino (though a sea bass special sounded like a winner, too).

The generous portion of meatballs was served with fresh tomatoes, olives and whole cloves of garlic that were remarkably tender and mellow. Once we cut into the three big meatballs, a blast of salt really perked them up.

Bingo — the scallops are a total winner, perfectly cooked and served atop a bed of warm spinach that was studded with dried cherries and roasted cauliflower. Just delicious. We also liked the octopus — very tender and served with a tasty, lemony chickpea salad.

We like the wine list, too, just as simple and accessible as the menu. You’ll find 50 bottles available by the glass (3 or 6 ounces) as well as by the half or full bottle. We wanted a bottle of something white and Greek, and prices on that list ranged from $35 to $55. We opted for the middle, a 2010 Argyros Assyrtiko from Santorini priced at $45. Its mineral, citrusy notes paired well with our seafood.

The paella was a tad too soupy and its very tomatoey sauce made it feel more Italian than Greek. But we loved all the fresh seafood, especially the very summery head-on shrimp. Lots of flavorful mussels and clams, too, and tasty chunks of lamb sausage.

The traditional branzino was wonderful — a perfectly cooked and generous portion of flaky white fish served with fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes and black and green olives. Very Greek, right out of an Athens taverna.

And would you like to see the dessert menu? Well sure, why not, we thought, having learned to have rather low expectations in Greek restaurants. No thanks, not another plate of gooey, overhoneyed pastry.

Well, we’re happy to report that the two desserts we tried — a spiced walnut and parsnip cake and an apple “baklava” Napoleon — were simply wonderful, kind of the highlight of an already very good meal.

The cake was an adult riff on a traditional carrot cake, served with a smear of cream cheese frosting and homemade maple walnut ice cream. The Napoleon featured sheets of flaky phyllo dough, sauteed warm apples, homemade Amaretto crunch ice cream and drizzles of honey. Just divine — and two very good cups of coffee sent us on our way.

Psilakis, by the way, was very much in the house the night we dined at MP Taverna, busing tables, carrying drinks, overseeing service and quietly chatting up his customers to offer menu suggestions and answer questions. We got just the right advice as we debated between the branzino and the dourade. Welcome to Westchester, Michael, and it’s nice to see a busy chef-owner taking such a hands-on approach to getting his new restaurant off to just the right start.

If You Go

 

MP Taverna

 

1 Bridge St., Irvington, 914-231-7854, www.michaelpsilakis.com

 

Hours: Open daily for lunch, noon to 3 p.m. Dinner: 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, till 11 p.m. Fridays to Sundays. Brunch: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

 

Dinner for two (minus tax, tip and alcohol): $93

 

Good to know: There’s a happy hour from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, with reduced prices on beer, wine and cocktails and $1.50 oysters and Gyro Beef Sliders.

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

4 Comments

  1. A long time fan of Kefi, I was quite happy when I learned of MP Taverna in Irvington. I had hopes of a good quality dinner and enjoyable experience. I received neither in the two visits I have made since the opening. The bar staff is unprofessional, poorly trained and not supervised at all. In addition to being self-absorbed and loudly debating some social trauma or another to each other and eating out of the condiment tray, our bartender actually sneezed into her hands and then made a drink without the requisite trip to the sink to wash her hands. She then proceeded to whine loudly about HATING sangrias (the drink I had in front of me which was thankfully made pre-sneeze) and how people need to order something else. She also complained about making several other drinks and told many customers that they could not have what they asked for.

    Fast forward to the food: the lamb burger was delicious, on par with Kefi, but the sides and the eggplant trio dips were mediocre at best, some overspiced, some underspiced, fries overcooked and greasy. The overhead music cut out several times, making the personal conversations of the staff all the more audible, and the floor manager seemed more pre-occupied with who was walking in the door (searching for important people he might know) than ensuring a tightly run ship. I do not doubt that this reviewer received good service, given who she is, but I, a local resident, did not.

  2. We ate at the bar both times, we like to order a large variety of menu items and share without feeling rushed to turn the table in the dining room. One visit was on the 4th of July, so we can exclude that from forming our opinion, but the other was just an average summer Friday night. Like I said, I’m a longtime fan of Kefi in the city and will continue to go there. I had really hoped for his usual standard!

  3. I could not disagree more with RivertownRes. We had a fabulous dinner there a couple of weeks ago – on a Thursday evening – excellent service, attentive, not hovering, unrushed, with good recommendations. And the food was simply superb. We had the wonderful tomato salad, chicken liver crostini with pomegranate seeds (a special that night), the paella and lamb burger. Ended with grilled watermelon with honey and feta that is amazing. We were not at the bar, so I can’t speak to that. but we are just local residents, not reviewers, and we were treated to a wonderful dinner, in every way.

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