NYC: parent pleasers at Pylos and Pio Pio

While Jay and I particularly enjoyed pinching pennies at Manhattan’s finest holes-in-the-wall, there were occasions where the pendulum swung the other way. Take, for example, the dinners that we shared with Jay’s parents, who were coincidentally visiting New York at the same time. Lovely and easygoing as they are, I couldn’t imagine digging into chicken and rice with them in some dingy corner of the city (as amazing as that sounds…). It just wouldn’t do. The situation called for real, sit-down restaurants, with ambiance, class, and a discernible lack of drunk people puking in trashcans by the front door. (Not that that ever happened, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility, right?)

Anyway. Twice in New York, Jay and I put on our best business-casual and headed out to respectable establishments for Dinner with the Parents. We had delicious Peruvian at Pio Pio and to-die-for Greek at Pylos. The wine flowed, the family feasted.

Pio Pio

Sangria. Pour it up, pour it up.

Jay’s family friends chose this immensely popular Peruvian mini-chain for a reunion dinner. Their Hell’s Kitchen location is absolutely stunning, though not perfect; the gorgeous vaulted ceilings and tiled walls, while spectacular, create an acoustic atmosphere too loud for group conversation. That’s totally fine, however, considering that we could only really focus on the fantastic food anyway. There wasn’t a single bad dish to be found. Service, too, was unsurprisingly polished at such a well-oiled machine of a restaurant. When a server and ill-timed movements resulted in water splashing across the table, they replaced a ruined, half-finished plate with a brand-new, full-sized order. You can bet your bottom dollar that we pushed past our uncomfortable fullness and ate it all. Delicious.

Piqueo Pacifico: chef’s choice of 4 ceviches. I don’t remember the names, but they were all good — especially the mango one at top-left and salmon poke in the bottom-left corner.

Perucho tasting, clockwise from top-left: causa de pollo (cold mashed yellow potato, avocado, and Juanita’s chicken); empanadas (shredded Juanita’s chicken with salsa criolla); anticuchitos (beef heart skewers, fried potato, and salsa huacatay); and palta rellana de camarones (avocado, shrimp, red onion, tomato, corn, cilantro-lime dressing). This was an excellent appetizer sampler, easily enjoyed as an entree. My favorite bites were of the causa de pollo — an addictive mix of starch, meat and sauce.

Camarones cuzco: shrimp, garlic,, cilantro, white wine, creamy aji amarillo sauce, shallots, served with yellow rice topped with salsa criolla. A fan favorite for a reason (that reason being ridiculous amounts of buttah).

Jalea: traditional Peruvian fried mixed seafood platter, topped with salsa criolla. This here is the super-loaded plate-and-a-half of food that we demolished.

Pio Pio (multiple locations)
604 10th Ave
New York, NY 10036
www.piopio.com/locations/hells-kitchen.html

Pylos

When it came time for Jay and I to choose the location ourselves for a Dinner with the Parents, I agonized (and I really mean agonized) over where to go. I carefully considered genre, ambiance, location, price range, so on and so forth, to determine an appropriate restaurant. After changing my mind about a dozen times, I settled on Pylos: a popular, but not trendy, Greek restaurant in the East Village. It turned out to be the perfect venue, as later confirmed by my friends who regularly bring family there too.

From the outset, Pylos is primed to steal the hearts of parents. The space is tastefully decorated with white-washed walls that recall seaside villages and (seismically unsound) terracotta pots suspended from the ceiling. The waitstaff were just as charming, attending to our every need and warming up the ‘rents with small talk. Although the dishes themselves aren’t “exciting” or “hip,” per se, there’s something to be said about traditional, delicious food. Pylos’ Greek cuisine struck the perfect balance between authentic, homestyle cooking and upscale, conscientious preparation. Healthy, wholesome, and heaping in portion size, it made for one incredibly satisfying dinner. At the end of the night, all six of us stumbled out of the restaurant happily wined and dined.

Delicious, warm complimentary pita bread + hummus. How does one refrain from filling up on free bread? Don’t ask me.

Roka kai ahladia salata me fistikia aeginis: cool pear and arugula salad with mild sheep’s milk cheese, roasted pistachios, and balsamic-honey vinaigrette. A delicious mouthful (both to pronounce and to eat).

Htapothi scharas: classic grilled, marinated octopus with a balsamic reduction sauce and capers. Tenderly cooked and delicious; we could’ve made an entire meal out of this alone.

Arni kotsi me meli, gigantis skordalia kai psiti tomata: cretan-honey braised lamb shank served with giant bean and roasted garlic puree and roasted tomato.

Krasata paidakia: classic braised short ribs, in spicy xinomavri red wine, served with porcini mushroom potato puree. iPhone included for scale — this was gar.gan.tu.an.

Paidakia galaktos stin schara me imam kai mora patates: marinated grilled baby lamb chops, served with mini stuffed eggplants and fingerling potatoes. While definitely still palatable, the meat was a bit tough as it was cooked a touch too well.

Garides kai hteniame slatsa ouzo servirismena me hilopites: shrimp and seea scallops in a creamy ouzo-flavored tamot sauce, served over Greek egg noodles. Seafood pasta is always a hit, and this was no exception.

Psari sta karvouna: classic grilled whole fresh fish (branzino), dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice. This was an absolute shoo-in for grilled-fish-lovin’ Jay.

Lavraki me tsigarellia: pistachio-crusted filet of wild stripe bass served with chard and spinach cooked with celery, fennel, onions, tomatoes and crumbled feta. This is what I ordered for myself — and would order again, given the chance. The fish was exceptionally tender and the vegetable mix wonderfully savory and light.

Pylos
128 E 7th St
New York, NY 10009
www.pylosrestaurant.com

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One thought on “NYC: parent pleasers at Pylos and Pio Pio

  1. Pingback: best bites of 2014 | yours, julie

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