Zavo: Chic Yet Casual Mediterranean Fare On The Upper East Side

I walked by Zavo many times when visiting their neighbor Dylan’s Candy Bar on the Upper East Side, peering in the large windows and being wowed at the magnificent interior with chic white leather chairs and super elegant ceiling lamps. I wondered if the food could be as good as the decor, which is truly awe inspiring and sophisticated–and sure enough, it was. I was so thrilled to be able to go there last night with my usual dining mate Gail Worley and sample the unique salads, wondrous Mediterranean dishes that are already becoming local legends and trying their aged Kosher meats.

I adore buratta and since it was on the appetizer menu, I had to “go for it”–buy first comes out a diversified bread basket with a tangy and unique pesto sauce made without the grated cheese or pine nuts. The homemade bread sticks are moist on the inside and crispy on the outside–needless to say, they are pretty addicting with or without the pesto sauce. I strongly suggest that you start off with the buratta just like Gail and I did. large 1/3 pound chunk sits amount a beautiful variety of greens including Boston lettuce and frisée as well as about a pound of spectacular heirloom tomatoes. Artistically applied balsamic vinaigrette dressing is on the bottom of the plate.

Next up was the arugula salad which featured radicchio, strawberries, arugula and slices of Manchego cheese, all very lightly tossed with lemon and EVOO. This is a super healthy option–very light yet very satisfying. I would love to have this with a glass of white wine or a spritzer on a “diet day” for lunch.

But Gail and I were definitely not thinking about dieting when we got the generous portion of onion rings made with a vodka batter. These were perfect onion rings that did not have the batter fall off as you lifted them to your mouth. The batter is firm and crusty–and the Vidalia onions inside are large and soft. The paprika mayo they are served with is not really necessary, but it adds a nice touch of spice and creaminess.

The Brick Chicken is possibly Zavo’s most famous dish. You get two white quarters in a delicious buttery rosemary sauce, served with delicious super fresh haricot verts and Fingerling potatoes. The chicken is indeed grilled while under a brick! The juice that came out of the chicken was unmeasurable and the skin was cooked to be a deep golden brown, just how I like it!

Gail and I then dove into the dry aged 18 ounce ribeye. This is phenomenal quality aged kosher beef and you will never come close to finding a ribeye with this little fat content. It is served with a delicious fig reduction and sautéed Cipollini onions and mushrooms. I love that the meat comes with the bone because to me the meat on the bone is always the most flavorful. The 18 ounce portion is just the perfect size for two people to share as an entree.

My dining partner and I might have been stuffed after all this luxurious savory food, but we were not going to leave Zavo without trying its highly raved about baklava. Their baklava is unique as it it is very soft, has some apples inside with the usual pistachio filling and comes with the most “knock out” homemade pistachio ice cream that I have ever encountered. The ice cream is ultra creamy and teaming with nuts! The sliced fresh strawberries, fresh peppermint leaves and confectioners sugar were a nice touch.

Zavo offers great prix fixe dinners and lunches and half-price happy hours. They get a big after work crowd at the bar and the entire bar area seems to have a really cheerful and relaxing air about it. You will not only love the food and grog here but you will love how spaced out the tables are and how the high ceilings make everything feel so majestic in a modern way. They have several private rooms upstairs that are ideal for events and on Saturdays there are special glamorous shows on a rotating stage. Zavo is located at 1011 Third Avenue between 60th and 61st Streets, and reservations are not necessary (although they are recommended). Phone 212-753-5500. For more info, go to www.zavonyc.com.

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