Kefi | 505 Columbus Ave. (bet. 84th & 85th Sts.) | 212.873.0200 |

IT IS ALWAYS a treat when I get to go PHUDE-ing when other persons. Especially my good friends. More so, my fun, intelligent, and beautiful female friends! Many of which I've known for well over a decade. And, every once in a while, one of those women might be an ex-girlfriend from twenty years ago, who has, in tow, her two and a half year old son (from some other dude who's not so much in the picture any more...).

Rebecca is this particular ex's name, and although we dated over twenty years ago, we've remained very close and loyal friends since. And as she is back from the West Coast for the summer, we are want to catch up as often as possible. She stays with her parents in Alpine, N.J., but enrolls her son, Leo(nides), in an assortment of play groups and classes in Manhattan. This makes for convenient occasions for us to all meet.

Conveniently enough, Rebecca picked the restaurant, Kefi, a quick trip crosstown to the Upper West Side, and not only one of my long-standing "wishlist" spots, but also offering reputedly great Greek cuisine, perfect since Rebecca comes from a Traditionally Greek family (her last name being of so many syllables that if we ever did get married—and hypnenated our last names—the final result would scant fit on one line of either of our IDs!).

I met her and son Leo on CPW; we walked the few blocks to Columbus and 83rd, Kefi's Mediterranean colors and decor welcoming us as we settled ourselves in a corner booth and got a lot chummier.

The menu listed a hearty list of appetizing dishes. We decided to start with a dish of grilled octopus with beans, which Rebecca assured me wouldn't be too "exotic" for her young son.

Flat out, best grilled octopus appetizer I've had. I pretty much order this off of any menu I spot it on, and it excelled here. I'm still impressed how they got a nice,flavorful char on the meat's exterior, yet were able to maintain a completely non-chewy or tough texture. Plenty of "ocean" flavor without the brininess, and favorably served by nutty chick peas and a bright, earthy and herbal dressing.

Next, we ordered the sheep's milk dumplings, which she informed were highly favored on Kefi's Yelp listing. They came with tomato, pine nuts, and spicy lamb sausage.

Another successful dish, plump soft dumpling, stuffed with a soft, mellow but "rustic" cheese, buoyed by the rich, just slightly citrusy tomato sauce, grounded by some homey greens, and heightened by the kick in the very tender spicy sausage, which, again, Leo handled with aplomb.

Leo was the one who kindly admonished me, eventually, for taking photos, as opposed to sharing this nice meal with good company. And he was right, so I stopped (which is why there weren't more pictures of the food for me to choose from). This was only the second time I had met him; this time a lot more open to my presence than our first meeting a little over a year ago when I don't believe he was comfortable with anyone else commanding any of his mother's attention.

This time, speaking with his mother, he referred to me as "our friend", and Rebecca was tickled to see him emulate me as I showed him how to express that something is "yummy" (by rubbing one's tummy and saying,"Mmmmm...!").

And he was correct in reminding me, so used to the convenience of checking out restaurants on my own schedule, of the reward of eating with others, requesting kindly that I stop "taking video (pictures)" and eat with him and his mom. Especially with people like Rebecca who's known me over half my life, has always been one of my best friends, and is like family to me (to this day my parents still ask about her!). And luckily, the atmosphere and food at Kefi only help to serve the celebration of the familial. You feel that people are taking great efforts to not just fill your tummy, but your soul as well, helping one reconnect to what's really important.

Sure, my good time could have had everything to do with my lunch guests, but 45 minutes here made it a whole lot easier to realize that, as I did, leaving with Leo hand-in-hand, with lasting images of not just the physical place, or that almost ethereal grilled octopus....

Bun Apple Tea!


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Kefi | 505 Columbus Ave. (bet. 84th & 85th Sts.) | 212.873.0200 |