Sunday, June 23, 2013

MP Taverna: Go for the great food, not the view

Trio of Dips with Pita -- from top, yogurt, eggplant and chickpeas -- is an appetizer at MP Taverna in Irvington, N.Y., that tastes even better than it looks ($11.95).

At the end of May, I just caught a glimpse of a restaurant sign and the Hudson River beyond as my fast-moving train passed through Irvington, N.Y.

Moments later, I Googled "MP Taverna" on my iPhone and came across a highly favorable review from The New York Times.

At home a week later, I looked at the menu on the restaurant's Web site. Then, I made a lunch reservation for this past Thursday.

The food and service were well worth the 25-mile drive, but I was mistaken about being able to see the Hudson River from the dining room, which are about a short block apart.

The Westchester County restaurant is described as Chef Michael Psilakis' modern interpretation of a traditional Greek tavern.

Of course, you can't walk into the kitchen and peek into pots or the oven to see what's cooking, as I did in Greece in the early 1990s.

We'll sit at a table the next time to avoid booths with uncomfortable upholstered benches that don't have enough seating surface to support customers' thighs.

Fresh pita triangles are ideal for scooping up the flavorful dips.

MP Taverna has a 3-course, $15 lunch, but it includes fish only on Fridays, when I work part time.

We ordered a la carte, which was a splurge, and ended up with too much food -- a salad and entree would have been enough.

My grilled sea bass fillets and especially a side of spinach tasted so rich I asked the waiter if the kitchen uses butter in the dish.

No. Only heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil is used. 

A small bottle on the table tempted me to have a couple of crusts of fresh bread and a pita triangle or two dipped into the fruity oil.

The MP Side Salad ($5) is one of the best I've had, with chopped olives, tomato and cucumber, and feta cheese hidden under romaine lettuce.

Grilled Branzino or Mediterranean Sea Bass on a bed of spinach, which I asked for instead of fingerling potatoes ($19.95).

My wife had the Simply Grilled Fish of the Day with salad or vegetable -- head-on Prawns served with Asparagus ($19.95). No fish of the day was available, the waiter said.

For fish lovers, Friday is the day to land a 3-course, $15 lunch special.

The view of the Hudson River customers can't see from the dining room.

MP Taverna, 1 Bridge St., Irvington, N.Y.; 1-914-231-7854. Other MP Tavernas are in Rosyln, L.I., and Astoria, Queens. 

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