A high-end restaurant row is rapidly emerging on West 20th Street between Broadway and Park Avenue South. Three-star restaurants Gramercy Tavern and Veritas, nearly opposite one another, are now joined by the outstanding Greek newcomer Parea, just a few doors down. Parea, which means “group of friends,” is the creation of Michael Symon, the chef of Lola restaurant in Cleveland. (Many may know Symon from his profile in Michael Ruhlman’s "The Soul of a Chef.") At Parea, small plates outnumber entrees on the menu, and so sharing is encouraged—if not essential. Several long communal tables dominate the cavernous space and heighten the convivial spirit.
But don’t look for old Greek standbys; this is Greek dining turned haute for New York tastes. Among the hot first courses, Gothamist loved the lamb sausage with yogurt and the crispy goat dumplings. The walleye (a freshwater fish from the Great Lakes—one of Symon’s specialties) was firm and meaty. Fried smelt was surprisingly addictive. Without a trace of fishiness, it instead tasted purely of the sea. The restaurant cures many types of meat in the Greek style, which tends to make use of more exotic flavorings (like honey and saffron) than the Italian style we’re more familiar with. Order the sampler, which features cured venison, duck, pork, and lamb, as well as two different kinds of salami. It’s expensive, at $28, but the thinly sliced meats shine like jewels in their artful arrangement on a giant wooden board.