After one too many disappointing New Year’s celebrations (it never lives up to expectations, does it?), I finally did it right in 2011. And the formula was quite simple.
I gathered 15 of my closest friends and made a restaurant reservation at the only joint on Open Table that could take such a large table at the tail end of December. That place happened to be Kellari Taverna.
We arrived, donned party hats, sucked down champagne, and enjoyed a delicious five-course prix fixe. In the back room we created a pseudo dance floor, and once midnight struck, we started pulling strangers at other tables up from their chairs.
It was a blast. And we didn’t spend a small fortune on a big-ticket event or in long lines at the bars. Instead, we dined and enjoyed each other’s company. And then skipped off to our respective after parties.
But, the entire time, I remember thinking, we are celebrating with the Greek Mafia here. We certainly brought the average age of the restaurant’s clientele down by 40 years. And the old men at the tables looked like they were in desperate need of their cigars and brandy.
Even the décor calls for it. It’s all dark wood paneling, white tablecloths, and Greek text scrolled on the walls in gold. There’s a section built into the restaurant’s wall where they pack fish on ice and you can wander up and select your very own carcass for the evening. Everything is well lit, old money, and elegant. So Mafioso.
I guess I have a fondness for the place. Partly because of that New Year’s celebration, and partly because it’s around the corner from my office, so I’ve been there for work dinners. I’ve always thought it a bit unfortunate that it’s never suggested as a dinner destination or a happy hour spot unless deemed necessary (read: there’s nowhere else left to go). Likewise, it’s never suggested for brunch.
This was made evident when we went for brunch a few Saturdays ago. We met up with another blogger, whom we’ve admired for quite some time—Belle of Capitol Hill Style. She was as lovely and as stylish as we expected her to be (even more lovely and stylish, in fact; it just made us adore her more). But Kellari was so deserted, we were almost embarrassed we had suggested it.
With such a great brunch deal, what gives?
For $24.95, you get a basket of mini pastries, a choice of entrée and unlimited champagne or mimosas. Not bad, right? Or if you want to stray from the prixe fixe, you could do a brunch of Mezedes, or small plates. But a desolate restaurant isn’t really the atmosphere to pummel down champagne in. It just makes us feel like we’re alcoholics, boozing in isolation.
So we skipped the fab deal and each went straight for the Bennys. Which were alright, but nothing extraordinary. Belle explains the reasons for our brunch indifference best.
“When eating poached eggs in an air-conditioned restaurant, you’re basically playing beat the clock. If you place a cold sauce (in this case tzatziki) on top of the eggs, you’re cutting you’re dining time in half. Thus, the Eggs Ulysses was cold after the third bite.
“As for the flavor, all you could really taste was the celery in the tzatziki. It was a nice flavor, but I wanted to taste the lamb patty, and it just wasn’t there. However, the grilled pita had great flavor. I would go back for another meal just to try the pita as a stand alone.
“The sides were interesting. The meal came with a basic spring mix salad featuring a basic vinaigrette. Pass. The fingerling potatoes were roasted, sliced and drowning in pickled vegetables (peppers, onions). They tasted good for a bite or two, but then the flavor became overwhelming and you just couldn’t eat anymore. I think Cori Sue definitely made the right choice by substituting the fries.
“I would go back to Kellari again, but I wouldn’t go back for brunch.”
Cori Sue went for the salmon benedict, which was served with a lemon mint hollandaise. She was excited to try a different, out-of-the-ordinary Benny. Here are her thoughts …
“Like Belle mentioned, my salmon benedict did get cold rather quickly, which always makes it kind of awful. I wonder if the air conditioning was particularly strong around our table? The salmon on the Benedict was fresh, the English muffins correctly toasted, and the sauce was different—it tasted very strongly of lemon, but I noticed no mint flavors.
“A lemon-based hollandaise is by nature lighter and less rich than a typical hollandaise, which paired really well with the salmon, it was a unique touch. The fries I ordered to accompany my Benny were limp and below average, which was a bummer because I love some good fries.
“I enjoyed that they brought out complimentary pastries to start, and they were good, but not anything special—no foodgasms for me. The coffee cups were teensy tiny, and needed to be refilled regularly, which was more of an annoyance than anything else.”
The Bitches say: C+. We want to love Kellari for its brunch deal, but there’s no atmosphere when it’s deserted, and the brunch dishes are blah.
1700 K St. N.W.