For 10 years Pylos has been faithful to its ethos of “rustic, greek, home cooking” in Manhattan’s East Village. The restaurant’s consulting chef, Diane Kochilas, is globally acknowledged authority on greek cuisine. She published cooking books and teaches every summer at her cooking school on Ikaria island in Greece.
Pylos striking interior
Atmosphere: Contemporary design features contrast with the rustic brick wall and the clay pots, in an amphorae shape hanging from the ceiling like an army of greek warriors. The restaurant’s name PYLOS (pronounced Pee-‘los) is the root word that includes things of clay in greek. A large communal table at the back part of the restaurant accommodates bigger groups, while smaller tables lining along the walls of the narrow foyer are suitable for couples and tables of four. Not quiet, neither noisy, Pylos is a great casual hangout with authentic food and friendly service.
Food: The characteristic greek trio of lemon, olive oil and capers, penetrates into almost every dish, making the food fresh dominant by slightly acidic flavours. Start with the classic Poikilia of three Greece’s best dipping sauces – tzatziki, taramosalata and melitzanosalata … or crisp Horiatiki the classic greek village salad, with juicy tomatoes, fresh onions, cucumbers, capers, kalamata olives, feta dressed in extra-virgin greek olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Grilled, marinated octopus with a balsamic reduction sauce and capers

My favourite warm starter was the Htapothi scharas of grilled, marinated octopus. The tender octopus shined through the thick balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil and caper entourage on the plate.
A meatless version of Anginares moussaka with artichoke heart, caramelized onions, herbs and three greek cheeses béchamel sauce was not as tasty as the minced meat original, but a great option for vegetarians.

My favourite dish at Milos, the more higher end greek restaurant in Manhattan, Kolokythakia kai melitzanakia tyganita – crisp, fried zucchini and eggplant rounds served with tzatziki – was not as refined at Pylos with its more rustic batter and thicker slices of vegetables, yet it was very yummy.

The Haloumi sote me stafylia kai tsipouro – thick slices of sautéed gummy-textured haloumi cheese enhanced by greek grappa and originally served with slightly cooked grapes is a perfect wine dish.

Finally a meat starter Soutzoukakia smyrneika, which is a ground meat sausage seasoned with cumin and bathing in a generous tomato sauce. It was superb, although not my mum’s level amazing. Still, delicious with an intense red Xinomavro wine creating a wonderful pair.

Lamb chops
We went for the meaty main courses and were pleasantly surprised not just by the generous portions, but also by the exquisite luscious sauces in which the beef and lamb were cooked.

The Arni kotsi me meli, gigantes skordalia kai psiti tomata cretan was a gargantuan honey braised lamb shank served with giant bean and roasted garlic puree and roasted tomato. The puree had a slight spicy kick and coarser texture suitable for a chunk of meat on the bone.

The marinated grilled baby lamb chops Paidakia galaktos stin schara me imam kai mora patates, served with mini stuffed eggplants and fingerling potatoes were more delicate, cooked more on the rare side and suitable for sharing.
My favourite piece of flash was Krasata paidakia, the classic braised short ribs, in spicy xinomavro red wine. The beef was of excellent quality, the sauce luscious and perfect to mix in to the porcini mushroom potato puree served aside the meat.
Sweets are mostly based on thick greek yoghurt and phyllo pastry.
Xinomavro by Domaine Karydas

Cuisine: Greek authentic
Visit: September 2013
Price: High, but justified by big portions (starters around $10; main large meals between $20-$30).
Drinks: All Greek wine list scooping everything from white single varietal asyrtyko, red fruity agiorgitiko (meaning St.George’s; deep red color and remarkable aromatic complexity, soft tannins and balanced acidity) to intense tannic xinomavro. Rose wines and blends, retsina, greek dessert wines from asyrtyko, muscat, mavrodaphne, commandaria varietals allow for every palate to find something good. We went for the recommended Xinomavro from Domaine Karydas Naoussa Macedonia 2009. Meaning “acid-black”, Xinomavro is suitable for aging with the wines rich tannic character. Red fruits with hints of olives, spices and dried tomatoes make this wine distinct from anything else. Its powerful structure makes it an ideal food wine, especially with lamb and beef dishes.
Opening hours: Daily for dinner 5:00 pm – 12:00 am (Thurs & Fri till 1:00am); lunch from Wednesday to Sunday 11:30 am – 4:00 pm.
Address: 128 east 7th Street (btw. 1st Avenue & Avenue A), New York 10009
Contact: Tel: +1 212 473 0220