Note: Parea is now Parea Prime, a Greek steakhouse.
Parea is probably the most seductive of the new wave of haute Greek restaurants. The walls are sculptured in the shape of an undulating wave. In the ceiling, there’s a leafy gauze backlit with a warm orange glow. The center of the dining room is dominated by a long communal table, with tables for two or four tracing the room’s periphery.
The menu advises that the appetizers are recommended for sharing. We ordered the spicy sausage ($12) and the tiropita ($15), the latter being doughy dumplings filled with light cheese and minced meat. They arrived together and were gone rather quickly.
We both ordered the strip steak ($28), violating our usual practice of ordering steak only in steakhouses. We were rewarded for our bravery, as it was quite good, with a nicely marbled texture and exterior char. The steak was not as thick as most steakhouses serve, but this is not a critique—steakhouse portions are often obscene. It came with “greek fries,” which had a consistency somewhere between baked and deep-fried potatoes, and which neither of us could finish. There was a yogurt-based sauce (lower left-hand corner of the photo), which I used as a dipping sauce for the steak.
Portion sizes were large—not only at our table, but at others we spied on. Though the appetizers were modest, we were plenty full after our strip steaks.
Frank Bruni complained about excessive noise in a two-star review shortly after Parea opened, but it was not busy when we visited for dinner on a Monday holiday. Service could have been better. No spreading knives were supplied for the bread service, and a busboy looked at me like I was crazy when I asked for another knife to eat the appetizers with. Our server never even asked us for a beverage order. By the time I noticed this, we were already in the middle of appetizers, so we skipped wine for the evening.
Despite some service lapses, we enjoyed the comfortable space and inventive menu, and would be happy to return.
Update: On a subsequent visit, Parea was considerably less impressive. Service was inattentive, and several dishes came out of the kitchen cold.
Parea (36 E. 20th Street between Broadway and Park Avenue South, Flatiron District)