Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pera Soho: A Crowd Pleaser With Something Extra!

By Anne M. Raso

Pera Soho is a light, airy, Mediterranean fusion eatery that is perfect for Sunday brunch, especially when you have some members of your dining party wanting authentic Mediterranean fare and some wanting a simple pancake. They have got everyone covered here, even steak lovers and people who just want a healthy piece of chicken breast on a baby arugula salad with a light zesty lemon and olive oil dressing. They also specialize in “mezes” (small plates) and many folks head to the eatery to share a few along with their much-heralded specialty cocktails.

I tried six different dishes in total and made sure I had a wide variety. I was impressed with the artisanal ingredients in everything I tried. Under the “Mezes & Sides” part of the menu, I tried three different items and it would be a tossup for me to pick a favorite because they were equally delicious. The first was the Crispy Phyllo Rolls ($7)—you get three 3 1/2” long and battery flaky pastry tubes of pastry filled with homemade Kasseri cheese, and classic homemade Tzatziki sauce on the side. They are very filling and a meal in themselves. The cheese is mild and buttery and just so fresh, you would swear they have a farm in the courtyard nearby!
Crispy Phyllo Rolls
Next up were the Shishito Peppers With Sea Salt & E.V.O.O. ($8). These tender, very slightly Japanese peppers just needed the slight seasoning they were given—and they were so soft that you could eat the stems and seeds. This is a great dish for the carb and calorie conscious as the E.V.O.O. was used sparingly. Also, the portion was about twenty peppers, so it was quite generous.
Shishito Peppers with Sea Salt and EVOO
Consulting chef Karl Alioto (who reminds us a lot of Tom Colicchio in both looks and mannerisms) insisted I try his most popular side, Smashed Potatoes with Kalamata Olives ($5). It was a very large portion of mini Yukon Gold potatoes lightly fried in soybean oil and “smashed” with Kalamata olives and plenty of fresh herbs including parsley. This just might be my new addiction—I am going to have to bid the Atkins Diet goodbye just based on this one dish, LOL!
Smashed Potatoes with Kalamata Olives
Next up, I wanted to try something as typical as possible for brunch, so I tried their Buttermilk Pancakes with Strawberry Butter ($14). This portion is three large 7” wide pancakes and they ranked in my top ten pancakes even inhaled in Manhattan. They are light and buttery. Alioto told me the secret was the use of high gluten flour—plus making sure to separate the eggs and whipping the whites to a peak before folding into the batter. It’s extra work but it pays off in the end!
Buttermilk Pancakes with Strawberry Butter
My two “main dishes” were Grilled Chicken Salad with Cucumber and Watercress, drizzled with Lemon Vinaigrette ($15). This healthy choice goes light on the olive oil and a little heavier on the lemon juice, and the baby arugula used is so tender and fresh tasting. The sliced chicken breast on top of the greens is tender with just the right spices—which in this case happens to be Sumac Spice and Marasco Pepper.
Grilled Chicken Salad with Cucumber and Watercress
Affable and well-dressed manager Andrew Baker told us he recommends the hanger Steak Frites with Housemade Barbecue Sauce ($21) to people who don’t know what they’re in the mood for, so I thought I would try it. It’s hard to go wrong with a good piece of meat and this hangar steak is tender enough not to need a steak knife. We have to say that the fries were super-incredible as these Idahos were out of the ordinary—they get fried in soybean oil that contains Kalamata olives and slices of garlic for a super taste sensation. The barbecue sauce is savory and not sweet, and the meat was flavorful enough not to need it but we used it on both the fries and the steak anyway. The peppery kick in it is pleasing to the palate, not to mention the slight tartness. There is a very special side of coleslaw that tastes like nothing you have had before, as it is dressed with yogurt and dill instead of mayo.
Steak Frites with Housemade Barbecue Sauce
I will definitely be visiting Pera a second time. It looks trendy and can have a “beautiful people” crowd at times, but it offers heart stick-to-your ribs Med and Modern American fare in respectable portions. You get your money’s worth and you will want to take every leftover morsel home with you!

Pera Soho
54 Thompson Street
New York, NY 10003
Cuisine: Turkish

Pera Soho on Urbanspoon
All photos by Anne Raso

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