The reality of Barbounia, it turns out, isn’t half as bad as the concept. The lively open kitchen is filled with sputtering grills and clattering pots; the room’s clashing motifs blend together in a half-pleasing way after a few drinks, and even the throw pillows feel comfortable after an adjustment or two. There are helpings of charred octopus on the menu, kofte kebabs served with mint-flavored tahini, and sizzling marrow bones that you excavate onto toasted brioche. The entrées are generally good (particularly the veal, with roasted cauliflower), but, true to Greek tradition, the best stuff comes off the grill. You can get fresh-grilled dorado or branzino to go with your ouzo menthe cocktail (lemonade, ouzo, mint), and the lamb chops are among the best in the city. None of the desserts are quite so good, though you can do worse in the wilds of lower Park Avenue than the smooth house panna cotta made with yogurt or the cigar-shaped phyllo filled with spiced apples.
Address: 33 E. 60th St., nr. Madison Ave.; 212-644-8885
Hours: Lunch, Monday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Dinner, Monday through Sunday, 6 p.m. to midnight.
Prices: Appetizers, $8 to $18. Entrées, $30 to $65.
Ideal Meal: Nine Seasons Spicy Prawns, kung pao chicken, Peking duck.
Note: If you have a hankering for a thrombotic helping of crispy beef at your desk, Philippe offers takeout.
Address: 250 Park Ave. S., at 20th St.; 212-995-0242
Hours: Sunday and Monday, 11:45 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, until midnight. Friday and Saturday, until 12:30 a.m. Lunch daily until 5:30, dinner after that.
Prices: Appetizers, $10 to $16. Entrées, $22 to $37.
Ideal Meal: Charred octopus, kofte kebabs, lamb chops, panna cotta.
Note: If you’re a connoisseur of designer restaurant bathrooms, the ones here are covered in azure tiles, the color of the Mediterranean sea.
Philippe: The service is haphazard, the space cramped, the entrées overpriced and unoriginal, the desserts (store-bought French pastries on a tea tray) forgettable. It all adds up to zero stars.
Barbounia: The name needs work, but the aggressively conceptualized room grows on you, and so does the food. One star.