208 W. 70th St., nr. Amsterdam Ave.; 212-875-8600
“I don’t keep secrets,” says Maria Loi, the indefatigable ambassador of Greek food who established an eponymous Upper West Side flagship last fall. That’s why she’s perfectly happy to reel off the reasons why her dolmadakia, or stuffed grape leaves, surpass all others. She uses only the finest Cretan grape leaves, and is partial to risotto rice, which sticks together tidily without clumping into a mushy mess. Her herb mixture is heavy on the dill, and the crucial dried oregano must be sourced from the lofty peaks of Mount Taygetus in the Peloponnese. If the chef were wilier, she’d withhold her trick of flavoring the rice with not only lemon juice but its zest, and oven-steaming the stuffed leaves on a bed of lemon slices, insulated between layers of even more grape leaves. Surprisingly, these modestly sized, loosely stuffed morsels aren’t on the menu, but offered as an appetite-whetting amuse-bouche. And if the allotted two-per-person serving isn’t enough? “Just say, ‘I want more,’ ” Loi counsels. “Usually people say this.”
Adam Platt on Loi
From the 2012 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine
So what exactly does “best” mean in a city with thousands of pizza joints, hundreds of celebrity masseuses, and museum-worthy concept shops on every corner? Well, in the case of this, our annual “Best of New York” roundup, there’s a heavy emphasis on what’s new or what has somehow remained virtually unheard of (until now, of course).