“Excuse me, but why is that person taking pictures of food?”
There are obvious dining differences between Manhattan and the suburbs, not just in food, presentation, but also the expectations of the diner. This could not be any more apparent when I overheard the conversation between the adjacent table and a waiter. The patrons were not annoyed by the photography, but genuinely curious about the reasoning of snapping at food instead of eating it.
In a conversation with Chef Psilakis post dinner, cooking in Long Island presents many different challenges that a typical Manhattan chef would not have to deal with. In fact, he feels that cooking and succeeding in the area where he’s from (Long Island) is perhaps more difficult than New York City.
The opening of MP Taverna, despite being fairly out of the way of commuting traffic, still managed to gather much fanfare. Food Network has spread the Psilakis name far and wide, and not everyday do you get to experience a TV celebrity working the kitchen without going into NYC. In fact, I would count myself as one of the faithful followers. Having enjoyed a brilliant meal at Fishtag a few weeks back, I was going for a follow-up hoping to be impressed.
The restaurant still had the smell of fresh carpentry, and felt a lot more casual than any of his other establishments. As you enter you’re greeted with a long bar and booth seats along the wall. Behind the bar is the main dining area with more tables, and a staircase to head upstairs for added seating.
MP Taverna’s menu is pretty straight forward, with specials on the right, and a special area for “whole animals” on the bottom of the page. Unfortunately they weren’t serving that yet, a reason to return I suppose.
Appetizers were plated in a pretty average fashion, but tasted better than the presentation. Meatballs with olives and onions were delightful, and would’ve made a wonderful spaghetti dish. Scallops were tasty, and very reasonably priced at $11.50. There were a few salad options, but none were too inspiring.
A good 30 minutes passed from the time we finished appetizers to the time when the entrées arrived. When the food did finally arrive, the five people at the table all received wrong plate and had to be shuffled around. Granted the restaurant only recently opened (3 days ago) we all laughed it off in good humor, but inevitably we felt like we were on an episode of Kitchen Nightmares.
Entrées were solid, though again lacks the sparkle for our discerning tastebuds. Having tried Fishtag just weeks ago, the food at MP Taverna felt diluted for local tastes. The lobster pasta wasn’t too exciting, the “simply grilled” salmon was nicely cooked, but perhaps too simply grilled. The one highlight was the baked striped bass, which was topped with a myriad of toppings including summer squash, zucchini, tomato, onion and herbs. The complex flavors all came together nicely.
Desserts, like the entrées, were a mixed bag. The Greek yogurt with honey and an assortment of seeds was a delicious combination. On the flip side, watermelon with feta cheese was exactly just that, water melon slices topped with some random bits of feta.
MP Taverna is a solid restaurant, and once it gets service straightened out, it would be a nice place to swing by on Long Island. It is a tad disappointing to see that Chef Psilakis is not striving for more innovation, settling to provide the locals with something more accessible.
What does this rating mean?
MP Taverna (Make a Reservation)
1363 Old Northern Blvd
Roslyn, NY 11576