Given that my idea of Greek food is a chicken gyro with French fries on it — and to make matters worse, I pronounce it as “jeye-roh” like a true ‘Murican — I did not expect the cuisine I was fed at Kanella: Greek Cypriot Kitchen. There was still pita bread (thank goodness), but that was somehow even more delicious than normal at Kanella.
The meal came with a starter, a trio of seasonal dips. Because I am such an avid fan of pita bread, I barely realized that the dish was meant to feature the dips; I only saw, heard and thought pita. But the day had come: the reign of pita supremacy had faltered. The dips were just that good. Granted, my dining partner and I asked for an alternative to the one made with beets — we both agree that beets might as well be called dirt — but the waiter was more than happy to accommodate.
In fact, the replacement dip turned out to be our favorite of the three, and surprisingly it was simple tzatziki. It was satisfyingly thick in texture with the balanced tart and sweet flavors of yogurt and a hint of bitterness from the herbs. Even though the Americanized gyros I’m used to contain this sauce, it was unlike any I’ve tasted before, which disguised the fact that it was indeed a common sauce.
I don’t mean to overshadow the other two dips, though, as they were similarly tasty and even more creative. One of them was a creamy pumpkin mash — an ingredient I wasn’t expecting on a summer menu — with feta cheese and herbs, and the other was pureed potato drizzled with a refreshing lemony oil. We were also served a complimentary side of artisan bread that came with a tahini sauce that I found to be bland and oddly grainy. However, we were able to utilize the extra slices to finish the other dips; actually, because the pumpkin blend was heavier, the artisan bread was a better base for it than the pita bread. What’s more was that I could greedily sop up the pool of lemony oil left from the potato dip that I was weirdly fond of.
We were surprisingly satisfied by the dips, which is understandable considering that they were meant to be shared between more than two people — but no matter, my friend and I are self-proclaimed heavyweights when it comes to eating. That being said, we were not entirely disappointed when our entree portions were not as large as we normally prefer. We both ordered the Cyprus tortelloni, which seemed to be the love child of an Italian tortellini and an Asian dumpling in shape and texture. The pasta was clearly homemade, though, an extra effort I greatly appreciate. The tortelloni were stuffed with mint and halloumi, a Cypriot cheese, and topped with a Greek yogurt sauce and spinach. There must have been something else deceivingly scrumptious and (especially) filling in the sauce, though, because by the last tortelloni we were ready to tap out and go to bed.
Needless to say, we didn’t have much room left for dessert. Even so, we couldn’t allow ourselves to forgo the final step in our food escapade; to us clean-platers, that would be shameful. As a compromise, we wrapped up with a glass of soumada, an almond drink served warm or cold — we opted for cold because we needed to combat the flop sweat on our foreheads caused by consuming so much food earlier. Although we had to waddle out of the restaurant by the end of it all, each course was worth every bite.
The only part of the meal that didn’t sit so well for me was the cost. For some reason I tend to write about pricier restaurants, but then again, they are typically the ones deserving of reviews. While Kanella is too expensive for weekly visits, it is definitely worth the trip. All in all, I consider this my first true Greek experience, and based on its quality, it will certainly not be my last.