By Lil Nickelson
Elysian Fields Café has been open for about two months serving up a taste of the Mediterranean through rustic Greek cuisine in the village of Harlem at 1207 Amsterdam Avenue in between 119th and 120th Streets.
The café operates seven days a week; Monday through Thursday from 11 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 11 pm and Sunday from 10 am to 10 pm. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3 pm to 7 pm with its own menu and they have a take-out menu for pick-ups, and they deliver but call to see if you live in their delivery zone. The phone number is 212.837.1389 and you can check out the menus and make reservations on their website at elysianfieldscafe.com.
Their motto is “Enter as strangers, leave as friends – our door is always open for you to join us.” From the minute I walked into the café I got a warm and cozy feeling. The whitewashed bricks walls and black wrought iron candle holders that surround the faux fireplace invites you in and makes you feel like you’ve entered someone’s home. The hostess and wait staff are friendly, attentive and very knowledgeable about the menu. Upon reviewing the menu I can easily say that prices are affordable and reasonable from $5.95 for sides up to $25.95 for a seafood dish (Kritharoto) that contains four different kinds of seafood in it.
My tasting team member, Tineta Newton and I came during lunchtime and our waiter started us off with a glass of house champagne. I was familiar with Mediterranean and Greek cuisine from my days of working at The Institute of Culinary Education and from my personal desire to sample cuisines other than those I grew up eating, so I knew I wanted to sample dishes that contained lamb and feta cheese.
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Tineta was very interested in trying some octopus and the dips. So, we started out with the char-grilled octopus with lemon, oregano and cherry tomatoes. That was the first time either of us had grilled octopus and it was tender, cooked just right and delicious. If you overcooked octopus it can get rubbery, but not dish. We ordered the trio of spreads served with grilled pita triangles and we selected three of the five dips offered: smoked eggplant, lemon hummus and the classic Greek dip tzatziki which is Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and dill.
Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh parsley are on almost every plate like the falafel with tahini sauce and zaatar, that comes out of the kitchen. I’m a vegetable lover so our waiter recommended we order spanakopita (spinach and feta phyllo pie) as well as a side order of Spanakorizo (braised spinach and rice) dish.
We also had Greek meatballs, served on house-made tomato sauce and feta cheese. The meatballs are a combination of ground lamb and beef and were so juicy. Combined with the tangy tomato sauce and the feta cheese, which must be imported; it takes too good not to be. I also ordered the lamb Souviaki which the chef served on top of the braised spinach and rice dish with char-grilled peppers.
For dessert, Tineta had Chocolate molten cake with vanilla ice cream and I had Galactobouriko, which is a semolina custard cake with vanilla ice cream. We were so full when we left the restaurant and pleased that we had take-out containers with the leftovers that we wouldn’t eat so we could have room for dessert.
It’s good to know that great Greek cuisine is now available uptown.
Elysian Fields Café, 1207 Amsterdam Avenue (between 119th and 120th Streets), Harlem, New York, 212.837.1389, https://www.elysianfieldscafe.com/
Photo credit: 1-9) By Lil Nickelson and