Jules eats world.

Monday, December 18, 2006


The name of this restaurant, according to its website, is "nearly impossible to translate," but essentially means a group of people who enjoy being together. Parea succeeds in achieving this sort of camaraderie surrounding food -- my favorite kind of camaraderie, of course. The atmosphere works to foster this feeling, with a combination of long, communal tables and more common two-and-four tops. The ceiling is raised, and a canopy of leaves, made out of metal, give it a further airy feeling. Large columns give a taste of the restaurant's Greek pedigree without giving a heavy or solemn feel to the room.

Parea bills its food as "modern Greek cuisine," but besides its presentation, doesn't stray too far from the traditional fold, especially in terms of ingredients. I started with the most traditional Greek drink -- ouzo. I've developed a taste for the licorice-flavored liquors favored in the Mediterranean basin: ouzo, pastis, raki, arak...and Parea had, to my untrained eye, a good selection. When we sat down (I'd had the drink at the bar), we ordered a bottle of Greek red, that was decent but not spectacular. The food, however, delivered: grilled octopus salad with black-eyed peas; roasted eggplant spread; and a delicious moussaka with lamb.

The main course, however, was the standout: Mr. H and I shared a wild Pacific sea bass, wrapped in grape leaves and roasted. The flesh of the fish was tender and juicy, the grape leaves lending a slightly bitter but not overpowering note. At $35 per person, it was far from a bargain, but also included two sides. We chose the Greek thick-cut fries, and the horta, a mustard-green-like vegetable. Both were tasty. Our friends were pleased with their selections as well.

36 E. 20th St.
Between Broadway & Park

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Outlet Koca Lounge

Shabu Shabu that pot is hot!

The past few years have seen an explosion of restaurants and bars in Jules' neighborhood. Ah, gentrification and the mixed blessings that accompany it. Luckily, the hordes north of Delancey Street have not seen fit to cross below it in force, so there are a number of small restaurants that have retained their charm and are turning out some delicious food. Unfortunately in the case of Outlet Koca Lounge on a recent Monday night, there wasn't even a trickle of customers.

This narrow restaurant has a modern look, with a sleek bar and exposed brick. According to our waiter, the owners had originally planned to open a bar, but like many aspirants in the 'hood, failed to get a liquor license. They turned to food instead, and settled on an Asian fusion menu, featuring Shabu Shabu. Diners order one of four types of soup broth, each named for a season, and it's brought to the table in a pot and placed on the induction burner in the center. It comes with an assortment of vegetables and whatever meat or seafood one selects. Then, much like Korean BBQ, you cook your own meal before your eyes. It's a gimmick yes, it's a bit kitsch, but it's fun and obviously it wouldn't be worth much if it weren't tasty. In this case, it was. Mr. H and I chose the "spring" broth, similar to tom yum soup, and ordered clams, scallops and shrimp to cook along with our vegetables. We started with very thin, crispy yam and taro fries, which would be delicious alongside a frosty beer.

Alas, Outlet Koca (which is planning to change its name early next year) still doesn't have that pesky liquor license, so in the meantime you'll have to supply your own adult beverages. That's really the only reason (and not even) not to visit this spot.

76 Orchard St.
Between Broome & Grand