By Lisa Loverro
NERAI is a contemporary take on fine Greek dining, inviting their guests to sample from an inventive Greek menu. Occupying the old Oceana space in midtown on East 54th street, the owners set out to create a relaxed yet elegant dining experience with comfortable seating and soaring expansive ceilings. The restaurant, two levels of pure sophistication with white furnishings and dark wood, is filed with a soothing light that illuminates the soft white draping cascading down from the high ceilings. The upper level is just as charming with a lively crowd hanging out at the bar and is always filled with a nice mix of people, from the after-work crowd to visiting tourist.
Behind the scenes in the kitchen the Executive Chefs are working to capture the nostalgia of Grandma’s cooking, but elevate the dishes using their extensive training and creativity ultimately creating a Greek dining experience refined by their cosmopolitan experiences. The freshest seafood is flown in daily; Lavraki from Greece, Mediterranean Dorado, Black Tiger shrimp from the Pacific, Live Langoustine from Scotland, Fagri from Greece and Live Lobster from Maine. And, while the menu is chock full of seafood, there’s plenty of meat to go around. A boneless rib eye, lamp chop or one of our favorites, the short ribs with slow cooked orzo blended with a graceful tomato confit. All these meat dishes will most definitely satisfy any carnivore in the room. Be sure to begin with a selection of mezes including their chickpea hummus, olives, pita bread or just about any other typical Greek mezes they might offer, especially the grilled octopus.
The cocktail list relies on the flavors of Greece to compliment their handcrafted potent potables. Mixing such flavors as fig, orange and honey into cocktails, they’ve created an inventive offering. A few of our favorites are; The Thymari, a brisk whiskey-inspired drink starting off with Bulleit rye, flavored with thyme, honey, nutmeg and mint; The Mediterraeneo, a traditional Greek favorite created with Figenza vodka, stoupakis mastiha (a silky distilled liqueur with mastigha flavor), cucumber and Italian vermouth; The Date, a vodka concoction with honey and cardamom. Add to this list a wine selection with nearly 40 percent of the wines being Greek and you have yourself a hefty amount of Greek wine and spirits from which to choose.
Nerai is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and dinner on Saturday and should be on your must-visit list for either a sophisticated lunch or elegant dinner. They are offering a special Valentine’s Day 5-course Prix Fixe menu for $95.00 with a wine pairing for $55.00.
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