If you’ve been to Greece, you know hospitality is a bedrock of the culture. Midtown Greek spot Nerai welcomes from the front door and carries that warmth all through the meal, making it a great destination for date night in New York. From the street there’s not much to see, just an old townhouse nestled among high rises. Inside, you’re greeted with style, as white fabrics and Mediterranean blue accents call back to the Cyclades. Subdued light, helped by a little candle glow, has you both looking your best. An amuse-bouche arrives, sheep’s milk cheese and kalamatas, setting the scene for the feast to come.
Nerai works from classics, but they make each dish their own. Tzatziki gets a touch of mascarpone, a tarama spread is light and fluffy, and potato purée is topped with crisp roasted parsnips. You and your date will be drawn to the presentations of these mezes, served in elegant glass bowls, with grilled pita on the side. The sommelier will be by with some smart suggestions off a deep list of Greek wines, although it seems a shame to neglect the cocktails, which are as creative as the kitchen. “The Date” is an appropriate choice, vodka tweaked with honey, cardamom, and (of course) a little date juice. Now you’re into the rhythm of the evening, conversation flowing, and the main courses on their way. Maybe you’re in a mood for live langoustines, or seared scallops, or short ribs that have been braised all day before settled atop an orzo risotto. No matter how satisfying your entrée, remember that there’s still one course to go. Don’t miss the mousse, a mix of honey and yogurt, infused with lavender and whipped together into a beehive that you’ll want to share. It’s the perfect cap to a night of casual elegance and old world charm.