Above the bar at Kellari, the words "Enter as Strangers, Leave as Friends" are printed on a placard. And it is this feeling of warmth and hospitality that pervades the entire experience at Kellari, an impossibly cozy Midtown gem, with wood-beamed cathedral ceilings and walls warmed in sunset hues.
Greek for "cellar," Kellari offers 250 wines by the bottle and dozens by the glass - ample choice for pairing up with an extensive menu of contemporary Hellenic fare.
The menu starts with dips like melitzana, smoked eggplant with black sesame, and skordalia, and is followed by a unique selection of raw and marinated fish like the signature Greek barbouni, a red mullet soaked in vinegar, rosemary and olive oil. Traditional whole fish is sold by the pound and grilled with lemon and olive oil, but the kitchen also offers more ambitious dishes like sinagrida, a red snapper grilled in grape leaves with pumpkin, almonds garlic and greens.
But the hook here is the huge selection of saganaki (think Greek fondue) such as katsikisio, a warm goat's cheese baked with spiced apricots and crushed almonds, and vlahotyri, a peasant cheese crusted in walnuts, sautéed with sage and apples, and flamed with ouzo. Don't try this at home.