Some days I feel like my mom with the coupons. But here we are in 2011, and one of the hottest dining trends is the restaurant coupon. So it was that Pyramida captured my interest. Not only is it near home, but it offered up a half-price certificate on Groupon and, well, it lured me in.
I walked over one Saturday night (the picture above is from last weekend), dining companion in tow, to take advantage of the free money and see what was in store. This used to be a KFC, and the closest fast food to my apartment; I like the upgrade. It’s essentially Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine: a little Greek, a little Israeli, some of this, some of that.
Pyramida was mostly empty at this hour — there’s no foot traffic this part of Second Avenue, and the subway construction surely can’t be helping. We sat at a window table, and the attentive service began. Our waitress offered the specials, and really, really pushed the shark. I’ve never seen actual shark on a menu, much less eaten it, so what the heck, when else will I have the opportunity?
We were started with a bit of tapenade and a mound of sweet pea puree. I don’t generally care for whole olives, but I’m a fan of good tapenade; I only lamented that far too few pita triangles were provided to enjoy the whole dish, so after we finished those off, I kept going back to this with just a fork. The peas retained the flavor of peas, which just doesn’t do it for me, but this half of the amuse would appeal to the pea-lover.
Given that we wanted to try as many dishes as possible, we chose to create a three-appetizer sampler. The menu notes you can choose any three salads or spreads in a combination, but our waitress had no problem letting us choose whatever we liked; I figure good restaurants will let you pick whatever you like and will figure out the cost later.
The hummus was pretty standard hummus, with barely a hint of garlic, but this was quite smooth preparation, and we mostly plowed through this.
The tabouleh tasted wonderful, though — piles and piles of parsley, liberal use of onion; I found my fork in this dish far more often than I probably should have, but it was worth the onion breath.
And then there were falafel. Light, crispy “crust” on these five little morsels, piping hot, waiting for us to devour them…
These were the real deal. Perfectly cooked balls of ground chickpea. Delicately fluffy inside, meltingly so. I loved these, but my dining companion would have gorged herself on just these given a bucket of them. Seriously, these could well be the best falafel in Manhattan.
We each had an iced white tea, a blueberry pomegranate for me, and the peach mango across the table. The blueberry dominated my tea, which was perfectly fine by me. (It seems blueberry always overpowers pomegranate.)
Since I had opted for the shark, my dining companion, still in the spirit of trying as much as possible, ordered the Ultimate Meat Combo — chicken, lamb, and kofta. It arrived on a bed of the chosen “seasoned” french fries, sided by a Greek salad.
That is some seriously grilled meat. And it was tasty, for the most part: the lamb was cooked a solid medium-rare, and did not retain the “gameyness” some people seem to not like (unlike me). As a bonus, it was super tender. The white-meat chicken was all about the char on the outside, so it was par for the course and something I’d skip next time. The kofta was declared “good”, from a hard-to-please kofta eater. So my impression of “wow, this is delicious chargrilled meat!” was on target.
Though the seasoned fries were forgettable, the salad was covered in feta, and the tzatziki was incredibly tasty. Lots of this came home with me as leftovers.
Ah, the shark plate. Three big, fried chunks of shark, with a trail of tahini-based, creamy sauce covering it and the pilaf. That’s “spicy okra” in the corner, and a Israeli salad rounding out the special.
Trust me, the sauce makes this dish. I would have preferred it on the side, but there it was, in all its glory.
But first, the sides. The Israeli salad consists of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, bell peppers, olive oil and lemon juice. I appreciated the lettuce-free nature of this, and would happily take home a quart of vegetables this bright and crisp. It served as an interesting foil to the okra, which wasn’t exactly spicy, but it solidly showcased the taste of the okra without any gooeyness I’ve seen in such a dish.
The shark turned out to be a little different that I expected. While it certainly had flavor, I couldn’t really place it. The fish itself was firmer than I imagined, and wasn’t particularly flaky; it was a bit like swordfish in texture and taste. The crust provided a bit of contrast in each bite, too. But the sauce really tied this together. I can imagine that it would have seemed a little dry otherwise. Overall, though, I’m glad I went with this.
We were far too full for dessert, though Pyramida offers an array of choices, from baklava to rice pudding and “outrageous” chocolate truffles.
I heartily recommend Pyramida if you’re in the area for dinner. That stretch of Second has a lot of Middle Eastern restaurants, and I think they hold their own against the kebabs and hummus available at any of the other choices. However, I cannot stress enough that you make sure to order the falafel! It’s probably worth going for that alone. I’m definitely going back soon — restaurants and shops alike are getting killed by the subway construction, and I think it’s important to reward the good ones with my business.