The primary upside of finding myself in a suburb is that I can make an excuse for trying a new chain restaurant. At least this is always the case in New Jersey. Long Island, though, which one would think is very much the same, just on the east side of New York City instead, is not the same at all
The area around North Shore Animal League, Port Washington, North Hempstead, Manhasset, whatever you want to call it, had a startling lack of proper chains, and drifting nearer to Roslyn, it was clear that this was a wealthy character-preserving town. The tip offs were the Main Street Chase branch dolled up in clapboard like it belonged in a maritime village and the strip mall sitting across the street from an Aston Martin dealership, all shiny with its Brooks Brothers, Tory Burch and Tiffany. And even though a restaurant along this corridor whipped by in seconds, a blur of lights and parking lot opulence that seemed better suited for Los Angles (pure speculation because I’ve know nothing about the city except that I could envision this restaurant being the setting for a misunderstanding on Curb Your Enthusiasm), I made a point of remembering the name: Limani. (Oh, there will be a Rockefeller Center outpost soon–also, it’s a Greek restaurant, as well, which isn’t immediately apparent from a drive-by.)
MP Taverna was the closest thing passing for chain (three spots to date, and a staffer was telling customers about a Brooklyn location being scouted, which may or may not be the giant Williamsburg project). I never ever hear about the NYC restaurant, despite the New York Times review from only six months ago. It’s popular in Roslyn. A 5:15pm Open Table check on a Saturday night yielded only 5:30pm and 9pm slots. I went early bird and by 6pm, the dining room and bar were mostly full.
Oh yes, the food. It’s rustic (I almost said “lusty” but that’s a horrible word and then noticed it’s used in the Times review, for what it’s worth) with strong flavors and a few slight twists, but generally, it’s straightforward menu. A clove-y spiced Manhattan to start, followed by a salad filled with chopped dried apricots and figs, smoked almonds, and manouri, like a less salty feta.
I wanted to play indignant customer and ask for the whole goat or lamb, both which require five-days notice as stipulated in small print on the menu, then get outraged when told no. Instead, I politely ordered the lamb shank with orzo, which was unexpectedly tomato-saucy (I was imagining a drier dish enlivened with fat and natural juices) and what I thought was an undercooked mirepoix were cubed root vegetables. I’m still not sure there was supposed to be that much stiffness and crunch. No, I’m not really selling this dish, but the lamb, itself, was tender and cooked well.
The parsnip and walnut cake was a wintry play on carrot cake, and taken more seasonal with the scoop of maple ice cream.
I did not intend to turn this into a full Shovel Time post because I had more to say about the surroundings than the food, often the case with my suburban fixations, but now you have the story of three courses anyway. So, who’s been to Limani?
MP Taverna * 1363 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn, NY