Pera Soho, the sister restaurant to Burak Karacem's Pera Mediterranean Brasserie in Midtown, opened recently with some fanfare about its 2000-square-foot garden—a teasing reminder that spring is not quite around the corner. Luckily for us, Pera's well-lit (and well-heated) lounge provides a great setting for winter cocktails and bar bites. The bar menu, by chef team Ryan Skeen and Sezai Celikbas, differs slightly from the original location, though the Eastern Mediterranean flavors remain the same.
One of the highlights of the bar menu is the Smoked Eggplant with Garlic Yoghurt ($9), a refreshing take on traditional baba ganoush. The airy whipped consistency of the eggplant, brightened by the tang of yogurt, spread beautifully on the accompanying pita bread, of which the kitchen provided plenty (a whole plateful not shown in the photo).
Tuna Tartare ($14) gets an update with tomato confit, marash peppers, basil and smoked eggplant. Even with so many ingredients, the dish is not overthought; sweetness from the tomato and peppers balances the herbal notes of the basil and the spicy kick of garlic in the smoked eggplant.
Fried White Anchovies with Olives and Grapefruit ($12) is another well-balanced dish, with the acidic grapefruit and fresh mixed greens complementing the fattiness of the fried fish.
Grape Leaf Chips with Muhammara ($9) is less successful. Though the muhammara stands well on its own, the tempura-style grape leaves are bland, oily and unappetizing. The extra pita bread from the Smoked Eggplant dish serves as a much better vehicle for the roasted red pepper dip.
Until the spring opening of Pera Soho's expansive patio, stay warm with the bar's selection of Hot Cocktails, such as the Black Stripe ($12) with Jamaican rum, lemon, molasses and black tea. It won't make spring come any faster, but it will certainly make winter nights just a bit more tolerable.