The MP in MP Taverna stands for Michael Psilakis, a leading American exponent of Greek cooking whose career has been dedicated to rescuing his culture’s culinary reputation from the depravations of diners and gyro shacks.
But at a recent dinner at his 3-year-old restaurant in Roslyn, the MP referred to Multiple Problems.
The place is as attractive as ever and, since only about half of the tables were occupied, the ground-level dining room was quieter than I remembered it. Despite the lack of a crowd, however, both the front and back of the house seemed to be struggling.
My chickpea dip was fine, as was my friend’s gigantes bean soup, half of which splashed out of the shallow bowl when it was served — without comment from the server. Another friend ordered the octopus with chickpea salad; the proportions seemed to have been reversed since we last saw it. Instead of a crisply grilled tentacle on a little bed of chickpeas, this was a mountain of chickpeas topped with char-less segments.
Our waiter had been very enthusiastic about the daily special, whole grilled striped bass. “It comes with the head, eyes and all,“ he told us. Two of us ordered it and we each received a boneless fillet drenched in a viscous sauce topped with a tangle of tomatoes, onion and scallions. My dad’s swordfish was a silly little patty — with the same viscous-sauce-tangled-veg garnish. Plain grilled fish — assisted by nothing more than olive oil and lemon — is one of the glories of the Greek kitchen and, frankly, was the main reason we had come to MP Taverna in the first place.
I was embarrassed when my dad asked two times that his accompanying salad have no cheese or onions. But he should have asked three times because it came with cheese and onions. He sent it back. It came back with onions. My tomato salad didn’t arrive until after I was finished with my fish — because neither our waiter nor anyone else was around to summon until then.
These assorted screw-ups were noted by the crew and we got two free desserts along with the grilled pineapple that we ordered. I appreciated the gesture, but more dessert is not what we wanted. A grilled, whole striped bass was.
We’ve been big fans of MP Taverna here at Newsday. When it opened, it received 3½ stars, and last year we named it Long Island’s best Mediterranean restaurant. This recent meal deserved neither distinction.
MP Taverna is at 1363 Old Northern Blvd. Roslyn, 516-686-6486.