Summer has been slow to settle into the city, but nothing is more telling of long days and warm nights than lingering Mediterranean dinners. Yefsi Estiatorio, a charming Greek eatery on the Upper East Side, was the perfect place to settle in for a summer evening with family friends.
Yefsi Estiatorio is located at 1481 York Avenue, between 78th and 79th Streets. The closest subway station is the 77th Street stop on the 6 train, so you will have to walk from Lexington Avenue to York, or catch a connecting crosstown bus or cab. Alternatively, if you are coming from the West Side, take a M79 crosstown bus from the 79th Street stop on the 1 train or the 81st Street stop on the B or C trains.
Our table was tucked away in the back corner of the restaurant, with an advantageous proximity to the kitchen as well as a semi-private dining experience for all our talking and catching up. Bread was served, but unfortunately not the allergy friendly kind.
Our waiter was incredibly enthusiastic about everything on the menu, and lit up to describe almost all of the dishes. His most amusing habit was running to the kitchen and shoving his entire upper body through the window to ask the chef about ingredients, shouting in Greek before extracting himself and running back. (Talk about dedication!) He checked and double checked that the food I ordered had no butter, cheese, yogurt, peanuts, etc.
We ordered several small plates for the table, a couple of which were allergy friendly. The first plate was some sort of cheese dish, resembling cheese tempura, if that’s even possible. (I did not partake.) The second platter was the lahanika, or a plate of grilled vegetables, such as zucchini, eggplants, and carrots. I mostly ate the carrots, which were firm, smoky, and slightly sweet.
The third plate was the octapodi, an octopus stew with pearl onions and a red wine tomato sauce. Octopus sort of scares me, but this dish made me reconsider my previous anti-octopus ways. The fish itself was soft, rather than chewy, and the tomatoes and the onions—I also rarely eat vegetables—were delicious all on their own.
For my main course, I ordered the biologico kotopoulo, an herb-roasted chicken dish with lemon potatoes. The pieces were already carved, so there were very few bones, but the chicken itself was very soft and not too greasy, with a combination of both white meat and dark meat. The lemon potatoes were surprisingly, well, lemony, and the tang of the lemons with all the spices and herbs on the chicken was a pleasant combination. I am not a huge fan of lemon on my foods, save for lemonade and dessert, but the lemon on this chicken dish was inspired and definitely completed the palate. The leftovers were an amazing lunch the next day, and kept very well.
The main crowd at Yefsi seemed to be families and businesspeople, catching up over wine and seafood, all familiar with the atmosphere. Yefsi is one of the pricier places that we’ve been to, and a great place to bring mysterious benefactors, as well as family members who will sneakily battle over the check while you’re running late because of a crowded subway train and you never even see it coming.
Given its location on the Upper East Side, Yefsi combines the neighborhood-eatery with the upscale-gourmet, and the camaraderie among the waitstaff adds to the general cheer that good food and good friends often create. Dining at Yefsi was full of laughter and conversation, and the food was just as delicious as the company. Here’s to hoping that the summer will be just as warm, comfortable, and long-lasting as late dinners and old friends!