Note: Chef Michael Psilakis closed Onera in late 2006, re-opening a more casual version of itself called Kefi, which has since moved to larger digs. The space then became the short-lived Gus & Gabriel Gastropub, before morphing into Fish Tag—all still under Psilakis.
In a neighborhood short on elegant dining options, Onera is an oasis of calm. My friend was immediately taken by the cool, relaxing environment. The original chef, Michael Psilakis, has since expanded his empire to Dona (which he shares with Donatella Arpaia), though he remains chef/owner at Onera.
The menu has morphed since my first visit a year or two ago. There’s no longer quite as much emphasis on organ meat—a choice that had put Onera on the map, but apparently hadn’t wowed diners. The cuisine seems safer now, but it’s still plenty good.
The menu remains a tad over-complicated. There’s a choice of “meze” to start ($11 for two, or $22 for five), appetizers ($9–12), salads ($8–9), pasta ($15–17), fish ($23–26), and meat courses ($18–24). Some of those categories could be merged. It would be nice if the pastas were available in smaller appetizer-sized portions.
Anyhow, we each chose a pasta and an entrée. I had the sheep milk dumplings ($16), which were plenty of spicy fun, although slightly cloying in an almost main course-sized portion. My friend chose the Greek risotto ($16), which came with shrimp, spinach, onion, tomato, and feta cheese. I had a taste of this, and it was absolutely spectacular. I was jealous! This must be the city’s best risotto bargain.
Ah well, the haze sets in, and I’ve forgotten the entrées, except that mine was fish and hers was chicken, both well executed and enjoyable. The wine list has an impressive selection of Greek wines at reasonable prices. The bread service is bountiful, and you could easily spoil the meal if you snack on too much of it.
Onera (222 W. 79th St. between Amsterdam Avenue & Broadway, Upper West Side)