Note: Parea Prime closed shortly after we visited. The space is expected to become an outpost of the Il Mulino franchise.
Parea was relevant for a short while, back in 2006, when Frank Bruni gave it two stars. When I visited for the first time, in early 2007, I thought he was exactly right, but a later visit found a restaurant that had run off the rails.
Whatever its merits, Parea wasn’t in the “conversation,” as defined by “places people talk about” on blogs, food boards, etc. It remained open for seven years, so it must’ve had a following, but not enough of one to remain in its original form.
Now we’ve got Parea Prime, a hybrid between old and new. There’s still a section of the menu dedicated to “Greek Entrees,” and most of the appetizers are Greek too.
But in the center of the menu, where the eye is sure to fall first, you’ll find Prime Meats, “Hand selected by Pat LaFrieda, U.S.D.A Prime Dry Aged for 28 daqys minimum in his Himalayan salt room.” I had to quote the whole thing.
According to Grub Street, the chef here is Jean Christophe Villard, a Bobby Van’s alum. Is there a separate Greek team on the premises? Parea Prime really is two restaurants in one. The Greek dishes have no steakhouse influence; the steaks and the sides have no Greek influence. They just co-exist, side by side.
So we started Greek, with the excellent bread service (above left), a quartet of spreads ($15; above center), and that old, reliable chestnut, the flaming Saganaki ($13; above right).
As Bloomberg restaurant critic Ryan Sutton observed recently, “Steaks, like wines, are curated.” If you’re serving Pat LaFrieda dry-aged beef, it would take real incompetence to ruin it.
I’m happy to report that the porterhouse ($47 per person), sliced Luger-style, was wonderful. Three diners with modest appetites shared the portion for two, which was ample. A side of creamed spinach ($8) was first-rate.
The sizzling apple-smoked bacon ($5; above left) was thicker and richer than even the Luger version. Three of us couldn’t finish it. The server sent out a comped sample of the desserts (above right), all of which were wonderful.
The wine list is full of little treasures, like the 2000 Chateau Ducluzeau, which is a steal at $65. The over-syrupy cocktails ($14 each) are disappointing: flavored martinis and the like. Better to stick with wine and enjoy the addictive breadsticks. Our bar tab was transferred to the table, after a brief protest.
The old Parea décor has been tastefully re-done. It’s now less overtly Aegean, though it looks a bit corporate. It’s a hybrid, much like the menu. The place was about half full on a Wednesday evening. The service is just fine.
I have a hard time awarding destination status to a place like this, when good porterhouses are now so widely available. Based on this small sample, Parea Prime is getting just about everything right. I’d certainly go back, if I were in the area.
Parea Prime (36 E. 20th St. between Broadway and Park Ave. S., Flatiron District)
Food: A Greek/steakhouse hybried, with Pat LaFrieda dry-aged prime steaks
Ambiance: A pleasant, if corporate-looking midtown dining room