The Vegetarian Option: Upscale Greek at Boukies in the East Village
For a while, the conventional wisdom in NYC has been that if you want good Greek food, you go to Astoria. In fact, I did that very thing just a few months ago. But on the busy intersection of Second Avenue and 2nd Street, in a space that has seen quite a bit of turnover in the past few years, the Greek restaurant Boukies recently opened to offer the East Village a taste of upscale Greek cooking. Although we've written before about how great the lamb is, I stopped by on a recent summer evening to sample the vegetarian fare.
Based on the menu, I'm guessing that the work "boukies" translates into "small bites," and most of the menu is devoted to small plates of sharable dishes. First up: flaounes me feta kai meli ($10, pictured above), tubes of phyllo filled with feta cheese and drizzled with honey. My first bite was a surprise; instead of the crisp shell of pasty I was expecting, the phyllo was soft, almost like biting into a fried doughnut, which then gave way to the aggressive flavor of feta. The sweet honey cut through both the tang of the cheese and the butter of the phyllo in a pleasing way. Some grinds of black pepper would have been the perfect addition.
Next came my order of revithia, melitzanes v. elladitika, aromatiki saltsa domatas ($10). It's a long name for a relatively simple dish of chickpeas and eggplant in a cinnamon-scented tomato sauce. The dish was surprisingly sweet and could have used a bit more salt, but cinnamon adds some definite interest, and its sweet-spicy flavor asserted itself the more I ate. The chickpeas are the real focus of this dish, cooked just long enough to qualify as al dente. The eggplant was cooked so soft that it disappeared in the sauce; I would have liked for it to have more of a focus in this dish.
Finally I tried another phyllo creation, the manitaropitakia nymfaio ($12). How could I ignore a name like that? Said to be of northern Greek origin, these phyllo tubes had the same texture as the feta ones I had eaten earlier, but the filling could not have been more different. Here the center of attraction is mushrooms, chopped fine and cooked down to accentuate their earthy flavor. I also detected the sour twang of white wine.
Although not everything I ate at Boukies was great, it was all interesting. I still think that a trip to Astoria is your best bet for good Greek food, but as a more Manhattan-centric alternative (with pretty outdoor seating), Boukies is certainly worth a visit.
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian.