Three words: Baklava ice cream.

Yes, this is how I first came to hear about Kokkari and instantly, I became hooked. I would unabashedly eat a Grecian diet every day. Olive oil prevails and accompanies nearly every dish. For a very special birthday dinner, I got to eat some of the best Mediterranean fare in the city, which consisted of fresh seafood, local produce, flakey phyllo dough, and of course, baklava ice cream.

We started the meal off with zucchini cakes mixed with cucumber and paired them with a mint yogurt dressing. The texture of the fried zucchini resembled that of a crab cake, and after the first bite I was surprised to discover that this was a vegetarian appetizer. The hot, fried cake nicely paired with the cool, creamy yogurt sauce.

Some people have qualms about confronting the face of what they are about to eat. When eating fish, I have no problem eating it from head to tail, especially when the fish is deep fried and dunked into a garlic-potato skordalia with lemon! Kokkari’s appetizer of two-bite smelts made for the ultimate plate of fried fish.

My favorite food item of fall is hard squash. It does not matter if it is a butternut, acorn, delicata, kabocha, or any other form of gourd, because I love them all! Naturally, I had to try the butternut squash with tahini and pine nuts which added a rich, nutty flavor. I could definitely eat this as a main dish!

Still exploring aquatic dishes, we took our waiter’s recommendation and ordered the grilled octopus with lemon, oregano & olive oil. Surprisingly tender and not rubbery, the octopus rested in a perfectly seasoned olive oil bath. Not letting anything go to waste, we dunked the house-made bread into the olive oil, leaving nothing left on the plate. Spanakotiropita, a traditional filo pie of spinach, feta, leeks & dill is always a must-have at any Mediterranean restaurant.

The surprising highlight of the meal was the duck ravioli with feta, pine nuts, and lobster mushrooms. The huge chunks of lobster mushroom truly resembled real lobsters because they were so meaty in texture and had such a pronounced umami flavor. The rich duck inside of the house-made pasta was encased in a buttery sauce with tangy feta. This dish was simply incredible, and I really appreciated it because this is a dish I would not make for myself at home.

The local sea bass, served head to tail, is a tribute to the small fishing village in the Aegean Sea that the restaurant derives its name after. Served head to tail, bones and all, this dish is cooked simply with Cretan olive oil and lemon. Served on a bed of braised kale, this salubrious entrée would be perfect any time of year.

No birthday meal would be complete without some dessert, so we shared the two house specialties:

First, we shared the galaktoboureko. This traditional Greek dish is hard to find on any menu, as it is typically a specialty that is home made by the Greek grandmother that I never had. The delicate filo dough is filled with semolina custard and flavored with Meyer lemon, served with crème fraîche ice cream.

Second, we had the famous, baklava ice cream! Why this is such a specialty item, I am not sure, because it one of the best ice cream flavors I’ve ever tasted. This enticing dessert lived up to its name and put a perfect finishing touch on this very special meal.