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Daniel Korn

Daniel Korn won our Restaurant Week review contest fair and square. Of course, he’s had a little practice: He’s been a member of DonRockwell.com since May 2005 and has posted — I kid you not — more than 2,700 comments on that board.

I asked Korn if he put a little extra effort into his submission for our humble contest, and this was his response:

In fact, I had been planning on reviewing my meal on the site, but when I saw your request for RW reviews, on a whim I sent it your way instead. I probably spent a little more time proofing my entry than I otherwise would have, and it has more details than I’d throw in for a weekly trip to a neighborhood joint, but I do try to make thorough posts when I have “significant” meals.

In other words, Korn crafts his reviews pretty much whenever he writes them. No wonder he claimed victory. You can check out his winning review of Kellari Taverna after the jump.

My wife and I usually skip Restaurant Week. There are too many places out there that limit the menu, serve smaller portions, or upcharge everything. Plus, at most places you’re earning a free dessert, at best. We used to love Corduroy’s RW years ago, and discovered a few other places such as The Oval Room, but mostly we skip the overwhelming crowds and eat somewhere not serving RW, or just stay home.

I don’t know why I decided to break our rule this year, but it had been hectic at work recently and my wife and I hadn’t been out without the kids in a while. That doesn’t limit our choices – my kids (12 and 10) are real foodies too, so other than the places I can’t afford to go anyway, we bring them almost anywhere. But it was time for date night, so RW seemed an excuse.

I’m not sure why I chose Kellari Taverna – it’s downtown, and too new to have too many opinions. But their RW menu looked inviting, it seemed at the higher end of the price scale, so we felt like we were actually getting a discount, and had lots of choices to please my wife, who is training for her second marathon and very carefully watching what she eats.

We went on Sunday; Monday being a holiday it was a good night to go out without experiencing the weekend crowd. As hoped, we easily found street parking 50 feet from the front door, another reason to avoid the weekend. We were greeted promptly and pleasantly at the front door, and quickly shown to our table. Though the place was at about 80% capacity, it wasn’t overly loud. Lots of window draperies and wall and ceiling hangings seemed to compensate for the wood floors. The fish on ice at the edge of the dining room is more gimmick than function – I didn’t see a single fish going in or out of the ice during the meal, though the sole lobster slowly wandered about a foot during the two hours we were there.

We were brought menus, along with a bread basket and some little snacks – a mild Greek cheese, some very nice olives, and a coarse garlicky hummus. The bread was just ok, but given a quick pass on the grill before arriving at the table so it was warm with a bit of a char.

The RW menu had 6 choices each for the first two courses, far less than half the number of dishes that appear on the regular menu, but they weren’t the cheaper choices, so their decision not to offer the full menu seems odd. Nonetheless, this was the same menu that appeared on the website, so we knew in advance there were things we wanted to order. My wife started with the Calamari, which was grilled with olive oil and lemon. Every bite was tender, definitely some of the better calamari we’ve had. This paled, however, next to the picture-perfect grilled octopus that I ordered, so tender it was nearly creamy in the center. These were two very generous servings, as well; no skimping on the portion size.

We’re huge fans of Black Cod (sablefish), so that was an easy choice. The waiter indicated there would be no problem to have it prepared without the advertised horseradish, and the apples and watercress were a great foil for this amazing, buttery fish. Lamb chops were also very good – three plump chops grilled in oil and herbs to the requested medium rare, with a some lightly lemony roasted potatoes. On my request for a glass of red that would go with the chops, since I don’t know Greek wines, our waiter selected an Agiorgitiko, which worked nicely with the herbed lamb.

The one warning we had seen from early reviews suggested avoiding the baklava, though the portion served to the table next to us looked great. My wife went with the Greek yogurt with sour cherries, and was very pleased with her choice, but that’s easy because she absolutely adores Greek yogurt. I went with the ubiquitous warm flourless chocolate cake which was fine if not special, helped by the obviously handmade hazelnut gelato.

Service throughout the meal was pleasant, appropriately attentive, and surprisingly for RW, not rushed. We were there just shy of two hours, which seemed just about perfect as far as pacing.

If you think of Kellari as a Greek-style seafood restaurant, not as a place to get moussaka and spanakopita, the downtown prices don’t seem imposing. I wouldn’t put it on par with BlackSalt, our usual high-end seafood favorite, but I would certainly return to explore more of the menu. One note – I wish they’d pay more respect to sustainable fishing, as poor choices such as Chilean Sea Bass and Atlantic Red Snapper appeared on the list.