Wonderful aromas greet you as you approach the corner of 54th Street and Madison Avenue. This is the beating heart of Midtown Manhattan, and it is here that Chris Christou (the executive chef behind Nerai’s inventive menu) works his magic. Chef Christou combines classical Hellenic food preparation methods with Mediterranean flourishes to create a dining experience guaranteed to please even the most jaded of diners.
Nerai’s menu has evolved from a foundation in the traditional cooking methods of Greece, adapted for the modern palate with a dash of Mediterranean flair. Christou starts with the basics, then adds elegant touches to each offering, fusing the old world and the new.
Traditional Greek food lovers will recognize the foundations from which each dish originates:
- Tiganita is the revered process of shallow frying food in Ladi (Greek olive oil).
- Stiskara means “at the hour” and denotes meat or seafood that is cooked on a charcoal grill at the last moment.
- Saganaki is a culinary process using a skillet or heavy cast iron frying pan – cheese cut into wedges, floured, and fried in such a pan is also called Saganaki.
- Ograten is a dish that is lovingly covered with bechamel sauce and cheese. Fans of traditional Greek fare will immediately recognize this in the familiar moussaka, probably the single most famous dish to come out of the Greek traditions.
- Avgolemono is a delicate and delectable egg and lemon sauce, used in dishes as varied as spring artichokes, fish soup, and pork fricassee.
Ladi is used liberally rather than heavy cream sauces or butter. Meat and fish are usually marinated in lemon juice, and often are grilled to bring out their individual flavors in the best way possible.
Mediterranean influence is seen in every plate that finds its way out of Christou’s kitchen. Robust, clear flavors take the precedence, with the freshest fish and vegetables assuming primary roles on the menu. Unique side dishes and a wide variety of salads round out the meal.
The fusion of Greek and Mediterranean food is not only delicious, but is also a perfect choice for the health conscious. Both traditions are high in both proteins and healthy fats, providing a balanced meal that is as good for the body as it is for the palate.