Last night James and I were treated by his mother to a wonderful pre-Carnegie Hall meal at the Greek restaurant Molyvos on Seventh Avenue and 55th Street in Midtown Manhattan. I had always associated the establishment with the power luncheon crowd, as I would make reservations there for various bosses when I worked in various Midtown publishing ventures, including (the now defunct) Talk magazine and the publishing company Little, Brown. As we were dining last night pre-concert, I assumed I was headed for an obligatory, rather than revelatory meal.
In contrast, the romaine, dill, and scallion salad wowed me. I am a salad fanatic and this one stood up. I shared it with my mother-in-law, so the smaller portion arrived at table in a delightful white porcelain creche. The greens were chopped, which I love. To my mind, the point of a salad is getting all the fresh flavors in my mouth at once. The chopped salad facilitates this by making every morsel smaller and thus more able to fit on one forkful. In Molyvos's version, the greens--herbs and leaves--were remarkably fresh. But perhaps most importantly, the dressing was sublime. What was it? I dare say only olive oil, lemon, and sea salt. But what a bracing, briny blend. The bitter lemon balanced the sweet herbs in a tingly way.
I am going to try this simple dressing at home, armed with an oil recommended in the magazine of Christopher Kimball (an author with whom I worked at Little, Brown), Cooks Illustrated. The condiment can be purchased from Crate & Barrel (finally, this over-hyped store is good for something).
My main at Molyvos was actually just as winning. A Mediterranean sea bass atop baby lentils, parsnips, and brussels sprouts. The root vegetables were as flavorful as if the chef had just brought them from Union Square Market. The fish was sweet and lovely and the skin so crispy that actually a piece scratched my throat. In spite of that momentary abrasion, I loved the dish. I had been a little worried that it might be heavy when I saw legumes and brussels sprouts accompanying it. Brainwashed by one too many recent meals laden with Thanksgiving leftovers, I was expecting a plate bursting with the meat and then heaping side portions of veggies and starch. Instead, this fish perched on a sprightly mound of lentils just barely studded with a few caramelized root vegetables. Delightful! And not gouging on my stomach.
Perhaps next time this long-standing establishment will be the evening's main attraction.