Greek dining seems to be undergoing a resurgence. Not only are gyro joints like GRK Fresh Greek flourishing and hipster Greek bistros like Kiki sporadically appearing, but there seems to be action on the upper end of the dining spectrum, too. Since the last millennium our stock of upscale restaurants — such as Estiatorio Milos and Molyvos — has remained largely static. These places were distinguished by their sumptuous displays of imported fish on ice, for which you were charged by the pound, with the tab for a single fish sometimes ending up in the three figures. The fish were grilled to perfection.
But as further evidence of an impending Greek renaissance, a new branch of Estiatorio Milos is slated to open in Hudson Yards. And the Flatiron District has just witnessed the appearance of Kyma, at 15 West 18th St., between Fifth and Sixth avenues — an offshoot of a Greek restaurant in Roslyn, Long Island of the same name. It will be followed by an Upper West Side restaurant from owner Reno Christou called Eléa.
Kyma, which means “wave” in Greek, is tsunami sized, with 250 total seats in a barroom, sprawling dining room, and on a second level, as yet unopened. Like nearly every Greek restaurant in town, the decor is intended to evoke the tourist island of Mykonos, with whitewashed surfaces, patio furniture, and pottery in niches. Behind the greeter’s podium and along the walls are displayed the Ancient Greek terra cotta motifs known as akroteria. This place is classy.
When my dining companion and I arrived around 7 p.m. on a recent evening soon after the restaurant’s debut, the place was nearly filled to capacity with a smartly dressed crowd. Women wore sheath dresses and lots of jewelry, and men wore tailored sport coats with shirts open at the collar and leather shoes with no socks. Both groups were extensively tanned.
Our first meal there was damn near perfect, and not quite as expensive as Molyvos and Milos Estiatorio might have been. The menu is longer and fussier than most upscale Greek restaurants, with more inventions among the recipes. We generally steered clear of such things as a plank of feta seared in a sesame seed crust and yellowtail crudo with carrot and chamomile puree and a dashi broth. They didn’t seem very Greek.
Instead, we started out with a raw oyster service (six for $20) that offered one variety from Virginia and another from Oregon. No Long Island oysters, alas. A watermelon salad ($16) dotted with walnuts and heaped with crumbled feta sported a slightly tart dressing that seemed mainly watermelon juice. It was particularly refreshing on a summer evening. A trio of triangular spanakopita ($17) snuggled into a fluffy blanket of tzatziki followed. Though these spinach pies seemed a little pale, the garlicky yogurt proved a perfect condiment.
We worried that the octopus, advertised as coming with peppers, onions, and capers, would be more of an octopus salad. These provided a welcome garnish, but the dish was mainly charred octopod delicious in its vinaigrette. Indeed, the apps were all delicious, though we considered it a defect that they all arrived at the same time on the small table, when we would have preferred they be coursed out.
Now, here’s where Kyma is different from most upscale Greek restaurants: Instead of being weighed and sold by the pound, the fish are price-fixed, selling for $32 to $38. From lowest to highest in price, they offer branzino, royal dorade, black sea bass, red snapper, and pink snapper. These fish are each enough for two people if you get a side from a list of nine that runs to Greek fries, asparagus, dandelion greens, and gigante beans.
Our black sea bass was superb, cleaned, grilled, splayed, and covered in capers. Lemon juice had been applied, too. The fish arrived deboned, but we had to stay the waiter’s hand from cutting off the head and tail and leaving us only the filets. The cheeks, of course, are the best part. Sprinkled with dried oregano, the Greek fries were abundant and nicely browned.
For dessert, we ordered a reconstructed form of galaktoboureko ($10), a little light on the custard and heavy on the whipped cream. Usually it’s a sheet pie or hand-held pastry. It’s a slick sort of place, and tellingly, Kyma offers espresso but no Greek coffee, a muddier specimen. Tab for two people with tax and tip but no alcohol: $180. We probably could have gotten by for two-thirds of that figure.
We stood up at 9 p.m. and the place had nearly emptied out. “Must have hopped the LIRR,” my friend quipped as we walked out into the cool evening.