A vast interior deeply reminiscent of the Greek islands, with their sandy beaches, whitewashed houses, charming villages, and clear blue skies, is the new look of the recently renovated Molyvos.
The menu is also new, a collaboration between consulting chef Diane Kochilas, an award-winning author of 18 cookbooks, and host of the popular Greek television show “What Are We Going to Eat Tonight, Mom?” and executive chef Carlos Carreto who has been part of the Molyvos team for 16 years.
A unique aspect is the authentic, simple dishes from unfamiliar Greek islands and villages. They are distinctive and prepared with dedication, artistry, and elegance.
Kochilas is from Ikaria, which was dubbed in a New York Times article as “the island where people forget to die.” The inhabitants are known for their longevity and simple, healthy lifestyle. With a warm smile, Kochilas told me she was self-taught and has cooked all her life, ever since she can remember.
One can feel her passion for food and her native island. As she was describing how she used to pick greens, herbs, and vegetables for the day’s meal, or how fruits were made into sweet preserves, I remembered how every season, my mother and her friends would all gather to do the same. That is how communities grow closer, united at the table over the bounty of the land.
A good starter among the spreads is the Santorini Fava ($8) with capers, arugula, and scallions. Drizzled with Greek olive oil and topped with dill, it was heavenly and refreshing.
One of my favorite mezedes was Diane’s Longevity Wild Greens Pie ($8), a dish typical of Ikaria, filled with healthy greens, wrapped in phyllo dough, and brushed with olive oil. There are 10 to 15 braised greens, alongside leeks, fennel, and squash. I took a bite and felt as if the angels were waving at me. To this day, I can still taste its wonderful flavors.
The Macedonian Meatballs ($7) were also very pleasing. This exotic dish is from Macedonia, in the north of Greece, where prunes and walnuts are commonly used in cooking. In addition to these ingredients, Kochilas adds grape molasses, making for a well-balanced and flavorful dish.
I loved the presentation of the Ikarian Salad ($12) and, of course, the combination of the baby beets ($12) with microgreens and extra-virgin olive oil. There was an unexpected slight heat and a kick at the end. I felt I had started to dine in the land where people forget to die and was now well on my way to immortality.
As far as entrees, I was salivating over both the Grilled Lamb Chops ($38) and the Clay Pot Lamb Shank ($31), but my friend convinced me to try the Prawns and Artichokes a la Polita ($32), a dish of sautéed prawns with artichokes, leeks, fennel, and saffron lemon sauce. How could I turn down such a colorful and satisfying combination?
There is also a wide fish selection, including lavraki, or branzino. This mild and sweet, flaky fish is served by the pound ($32/pound). It was simply grilled over charcoal and came with a lemon and olive oil emulsion, just as you would have it in the Greek tavernas alongside island beaches. As I was savoring every bite, I remembered a Greek quote by the historian Herodotus, “Whatever comes from God is impossible for a man to turn back.”
There are other fascinating charcoal-grilled fish selections, such as the delicate, moist fagri from Greece, or the full-flavored sardines from Portugal. The menu is constantly evolving and changes with the new discoveries and inspiration that Kochilas brings back from her travels.
To complement the dishes, Molyvos has an extensive selection of 480 bottles of Greek wines, hand-picked by wine director Kamal Kouiri, including bottles from wineries exclusive to Molyvos. About 60 wines are available by the glass, changing on a regular basis to expose guests to unknown regions of Greece.
“I love having the resources to expose guests to wines that they would otherwise not be able to taste, unless of course they went to Greece,” Kouri said.
There are also about a dozen carefully selected Greek ouzos, the traditional anise-flavored aperitif.
The service was impeccable with ample space between tables for privacy and soft conversation.
There is a prix fixe menu for $38 (5 p.m.–7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.–closing).
871 Seventh Ave. (Between 55th and 56th streets)
Monday–Friday noon–3 p.m.
Sunday–Tuesday 5 p.m.–11 p.m.
Wednesday–Friday 5:30 p.m.–11:30 p.m.
Saturday 5 p.m.–11:30 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday noon–3 p.m.