Avra was one of the first places I ate at in New York. I remember having a delightful Sunday brunch there a few years ago, a brunch filled with honey and vanilla wafting through the air on a bed of Greek french toast. I have dreams of oregano fries and Greek-spiced eggs and a lively atmosphere that introduced me to the everywhereness of great New York food.
So it was with some trepidation and some excitement that I went back to Avra for lunch and sampled their more workaday Greek cuisine. It turns out they haven't missed a beat.
Starting with their wholesome Greek bread served with a dipping sauce a little reminiscent of a thin hummus, just about everything was quite tasty. We started with cooked lima beans -- the weakest dish served, because to my taste they were somewhat overcooked -- and moved on to a wonderfully chewy Greek oven-baked cheese. We then tried immensely garlicky (in a good way) zucchini chips served with a cool yogurt dipping sauce. For my main course, I had a delicately-cooked Greek pasta in a fresh tomato sauce and feta cheese. Oregano fries were crisp and as attractive as I remembered them.
Perhaps my only hesitation (though it is one of Avra's charms) is that this food is not particularly fancy, and could easily have been served at a much humbler restaurant. But what you get here is good, well-seasoned and adeptly cooked food in a nice atmosphere and with solid service.
Portions were generous, and prices, if not cheap, are reasonable for a beautiful and lively place in midtown. It's filled with people doing business lunches on the weekdays, and would be the perfect place for a laidback yet elegant dining experience.
The Vegetarian New Yorker: http://vegny.blogspot.com/