Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Place Where Everybody Knows My Name

Pyramida Grill, left, is now doing business at East 73rd street and Second avenue. Below in descending order: Co-owner Roger Ramkissoon taking lunch orders; Roger Ramkissoon's The Broker’s off the Bone Barbecue Chicken is ready for consumption; Pyramida Grill has a new decor and a tropical plant that has been pruned into submission. Photos by Yours Truly.

REMEMBER on “Cheers” that whenever Norm entered the bar everybody said his name?

That’s the sort of reception Yours Truly enjoyed at Pyramida. “V!,” either owner Matthew Koven or manager Roger Ramkissoon would cry whenever I lightened the door at East 78th street and First avenue.

Note that I enjoyed this treatment – past tense. As of approximately a couple of weeks ago, Pyramida pulled up stakes to move farther south and farther west. The venue of New York’s best lemonade, according to “NewYork Magazine,” and first-rate falafel, according to “The New York Times,” is now ensconced in greener and larger pastures on the southeast corner of East 73rd street and Second avenue.

Woe is me because the new place is not set up for such intimate greetings. Gone forever are the days when Pyramida did mainly takeout and I and other regulars could just stop by and hangout regardless of whether we were shopping.

But it’s good for the continued success of Pyramida Grill, which has a strong allegiance to nutritious, delicious homemade food. Expectant father, MK, can put more lining in his pocket toward a dreamhouse on Long Island. And RR, father of four, gets something of his own as an equal partner where once he was just managing.

“He’s a great guy, and I wanted to do more business for myself,” RR gave me to know a few days back when I asked why he decided to throw in with the likes of MK. “I thought this was a nice area to get into – the food industry and I decided to invest.”

Old and new customers gain, too. Three, nondescript tables crowded in a cramped space have been replaced by aqua dinner chairs and tables with marble tops. Pyramida now seats 25. The d├ęcor tends toward orange/aqua, a homage to the Mediterranean. Naturally, MK and RR want customers to enjoy the food whether they are ordering takeout (including delivery) or sitting for a meal. The menu is much the same but does have a few additions such as the Appetizer Sampler ($11.95), a choice of any three salads or spreads i.e., Babaganoush, Pumpkin Gloria and White Bean Spread. Other newbies are a Tahini Crab Cake seafood plate ($19.95) and Beef Stew meat plate ($17.95). All plates are served with a choice of lentil rice/saffron rice/rice pilaf or fries; salad, and one side order.

The menu is not huge but it is not so small that one might not need guidance navigating it. MK recommends a starter along the lines of the Eggplant and Feta Cheese Salad ($5.95), followed by a Chicken Shwarma meat plate ($17.95) and Outrageous Warm Chocolate Truffles ($8.95) for dessert. To accompany the meal, a glass of the “Bravdo” Cabernet Sauvignon (2003/$12) from Israel’s Karmei Yosef Winery. By the way, the new winelist was put together by a sommelier and includes characteristics of each variety and pairing suggestions. Here, too, is beer. Alas, there is no more bootleg vodka.

The Chicken Swarma is also a new dish on the menu and one of MK’s favorites for the simple fact that, “it’s a good marinade. It’s a combo of white and dark meat chicken, roasted on a spit; it’s very flavorful and healthy” and he’s not revealing the ingredients in the marinade.

RR is also tight-lipped about the secret ingredients in his menu favorite – The Broker’s off the Bone Barbecue Chicken ($17.95). But he does reveal that “it has a special sauce.” And not just any sauce, “it’s a homemade sauce with lots of nice spices ...”

I, too, have my favorites. For lunch, I like either the falafel sandwich or lamb gyro (now $8.95). Both come in a pita with a drink and soup or fruit. For dinner, I usually go for the Ultimate Meat Combo, now $19.95 (Chicken, Lamb and Kofta ) meat plate. It’s all good …

Meanwhile, some people go postal. MK goes tropical. Exhibit A is the tropical plant that stands near the restaurant entrance like a poker-faced security guard. When I clapped eyes on the horror, I informed MK that it was unwieldy. His wife, too, attempted to communicate this bit of information. We both thought it would molest dinners, perhaps even maul them. Matthew would not be moved. “I like tropical plants,” he retorted defensively. When I was in Pyramida G. a few days later, however, the plant had been wisely downsized, “because the leaves were hitting people in the head,” MK explained.

This is the kind of sensible man suited to serving the Ultimate Vegetarian Combo, $18.95 (variety of vegetarian dishes served with lentil, rice pilaf w/carrots & almonds or saffron rice).

Learn more about Pyramida Grill at 212-472-5855/1402 2nd Ave.; www.pyramidagrillnyc.com will be live shortly.

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