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Kellari Taverna, Downtown

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I drove by 1700 K street and the dining room looks finished. It is a lot different from Restaurant K. I think they will be opening real soon. Hopefully this site is not cursed.

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Kellari opened Friday. The dining room is absolutely stunning, centered around a spectacular display of raw, whole fish on ice that is regularly sprayed and cared for by what we decided to call the fishtender. The excitement of opening was apparent in the staff, who couldn't have been friendlier or more accommodating. Many of our questions elicited confusion, but I'm sure that will get ironed out with more time and experience.

We shared the Aegean Feast, which includes an appetizer sampler, a whole fish, and a dessert sampler. Among the apps, the octopus, sardines, and shrimp were my favorites, and the lamb ribs were tasty, if fatty. The spanikopita was a big disappointment; it wasn't particularly bad, just particularly average.

I'm kicking myself for not remembering what kind of fish they served us for the entree, but it was well-cooked and flavorful, fileted at the table and served with a simple oregano-caper sauce. The sides of garlicky spinach, lemony potatoes, and tomatoey lima beans were delicious.

I also enjoyed all the desserts, particularly the phyllo-custard thingy.

A few small warnings:

1. We asked for them to pair wines with our meal, since we didn't know what we'd be eating and none of us is particularly versed in Greek wines. The app wine was lovely. But they didn't tell us what the entree wine was when they delivered it--and call me crazy, but I really think you are honor-bound to tell someone when you serve them a freaking Retsina. To be fair, the wine went beautifully with the fish. But it's just kind of a shock to get a mouthful of pine tar when you're not expecting it.

2. They recommend a pound of fish per person. That is WAY, WAY too much food. All three of us took more than half of our fish home.

3. And at these prices, you don't want to over-order. I don't think the fish prices are too out of line, but some of the others were a bit jarring. An assortment of spreads for $15.95? We didn't order it so I don't know if it includes something particularly dear, but we did see one on another table and it's a pretty small amount of five different spreads. And, come on people, you know at least three of them were whipped beans.

Anyway, I think this is a pretty cool place, with unique and interesting seafood in a lovely atmosphere. I'll definitely be giving it another try... after they settle in a bit.

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Had a quick meal at the bar. The service was fantastic. Just the right amount of attentiveness. I loved the Greek Yogurt Cheesecake! So fluffy and light, just a little tart. Not for those who like the dense New York style cheesecake.

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A short note on a not-stellar experience.

The space is beautiful, the ambience, lovely. The service, poor. So poor that the waiter we had to flag down and ask for a drink menu couldn't handle an order for a martini and a glass of wine, and the manager tried to cover for him (some time later) by saying that he wanted to make sure he knew our order so that it would be correct, would we please repeat it. The manager then, within earshot and many minutes later, told the waiter our order and sent him to the bar to get it.

And then some time after a second glass of wine was ordered and not delivered, the manager, walking by our table, saying so that we would hear, "I don't think the wine is ready yet." Cue the waiter "No, the wine is not ready yet." ???

I really don't know how long this all took in steps, I wasn't checking my watch, and I know that when you are being waited on your perception can be off in terms of how long you have been waiting. But you know when something takes too long. Two people, three appetizers, two and a half hours. TWO AND A HALF HOURS. And expensive! $90.

[couple of deets: dining room lively but not full, apps ordered at same time]

and the food - spanakopita, good, nothing special but the guy was pushing it, not quite hot

crispy eggplant and zucchini with tzatziki - a must. thinnest slices I have seen, perfectly cooked, you can consider it vegetables but really an excuse to order something fried and crispylicious

lobster ravioli - squid ink pasta was the surprise and the sauce was lovely, just the right amount of tarragon, not much lobster in the 3 ravioli, I think they put 3 mussels in the bowl to fill it out, for $18.95 I would rather have a couple more ravioli

Edited by Merry Mary

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I made my first visit to Kellari Taverna with a large group, of 13, and we indulged in an array of mezze and entrees to share along with several great Greek wines. Everything was excellent.

The service was laid back but attentive enough for our needs and comfort, and very friendly and informative. Our server led me to the fresh catch of the day (the fresh catch is beautifully displayed in the center of the restaurant) and helped us pick 2 great fish for the group (an Arctic Char and a Greek white fish, whose name I can't recall). They were both delicious and the highlight of the meal.

For the mezze, we ordered the saganaki, keftedes (meatballs), Kellari chips (fried eggplant chips), spanakopita, calamari, and octopus (recommended by the chef). Of those, the only dish we weren't enthused about was the saganaki, which was a bit too congealed for our tastes. But everything else, particularly the eggplant and the octopus, was absolutely delicious and well-prepared. The Kellari chips being ethereally thin and light, and the octopus perfectly grilled.

The fish, as I noted, was superb. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, allowing the flavor of the fresh fish to really shine. We also ordered the steak, which was flavorful but not as memorable as the outstanding seafood.

I've visited both Jimmy's on K and Restaurant K in this space, and was lukewarm on both. Kellari Taverna is a welcome newcomer to this space, and I really hope people support this wonderful addition to DC.

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...I've visited both Jimmy's on K and Restaurant K in this space, and was lukewarm on both. Kellari Taverna is a welcome newcomer to this space, and I really hope people support this wonderful addition to DC.

I keep meaning to get out and about for Greek food. Your recap was a good reminder of the possibilities. Thanks for posting this.

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Their fairly decent website is HERE. The menu implies many delights, but holy smoke it's expensive (although I suppose if it were French rather than Greek the prices might not seem so high).

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I had a lovely RW experience at Kellari on Tuesday evening. The RW menu isn't extensive but is certainly comprehensive. Apps - My friend inhaled the octopus and I the calamari. The octopus defintely won the round. Cut into smaller pieces (for the skweemish (sp?)I imagine) and incredibly flavorful - not tough at all. We tried the scallops and lamb chops for entrees. A draw. For dessert we ordered a chocolate cake and the yogurt. Both were VERY delicious. For the non-chocolate lovers out there, the yogurt was transcendental. Portion sizes were enormous despite of RW.

I'm coming off of some very good greek meals in NYC over the last month or so (Kefi and Peryali). I would have to say that Kellari rivaled Kefi in quality (excellent). It's a great RW deal - I'll definitely go back to try the rest of the menu.

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Just got back from Kellari and have mixed reviews. Yeah, I realize it was Valentine's Day, but it's a high end restaurant and the service should be good regardless (esp when paying upwards of $150 for a meal for two - pre-tip). Unfortunately ours was not. The food, however, was fresh and tasty.

I love that the bread basket is grilled and served warm with hummus (the olive oil available on the table was another good accompaniment). It was hard not to fill up on that. For apps we shared the Saganaki (Graviera cheese flamed with Metaxa 12.95) and the Grilled Mixed Seafood (shrimp, calamari and octopus with lemon and olive oil $18.95). Before they were brought out the waiter had asked if we wanted more bread. We said yes, but never received it. When the saganaki was brought out the waiter once again mentioned bringing bread, but it was at least another 5+ minutes before we got any. We ate a few spoonfuls of the cheese while it was still hot, and it was delicious, but by the time the bread arrived it had mostly congealed and was difficult to get out of the pan. The seafood was excellent. A fairly large pile of grilled calamari with a slight char and two large shrimp along with an octopus tentacle. Neither of us had tried octopus before and were surprised at how "meaty" it tasted (we also had to flag down a bus boy to get knives with which to cut the octopus).

When we ordered entrees and I attempted to order one of the fish dishes listed on the whole grilled fish menu, it was only then that the waiter mentioned they actually didn't have most of them, but perhaps only 2-3 choices (of the 12 listed) over on the ice. That would've been nice to know a little earlier. We ended up with the Fagri (Greece, moist and lean flavorful white snapper 34.95 lb) for two that weighed in at a little less than 2 lbs, and it was so light and fresh. Cooked with just some lemon, olive oil and capers it was a very simple, yet flavorful dish. The Asparagus (lightly grilled 5.95) and Mushroom Risotto (with truffle oil 9.95) were both sides I would recommend. Despite being out of season the asparagus was awesome with the char from the grill. The risotto was extremely comforting too.

Our third service snag came with dessert. We were pretty full but I am a sucker for Nutella, so had to try the Kellari Sundae (hazelnut gelato, Nutella, toasted hazelnuts and a shot of Greek coffee 8.95). I don't like coffee or coffee flavored anything, so I asked for it without the shot. When it was brought out they actually first tried to give it to the table next to us, but it eventually made it to us. With the coffee in it. Then we didn't see our waiter for at least 15 min, so there wasn't even an opportunity to get it fixed. By the time he finally reappeared we were really just ready for the check and to go.

So maybe it was just an off night. Who knows. And the food was indeed good. But I just expected a better experience overall.

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I went to Kellari on Friday evening for dinner was not impressed. The hummus they brought to the table was tasteless and reminded me more of bad grocery store hummus than something I would expect from an authentic greek restaurant. The fish, while fresh and relatively enjoyable, was very overpriced. The desserts were just okay and overpriced as well. Overall, I would say that the meal was just okay and did not rate the $100 (for 2 people) that we paid.

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We had a good, in parts very good, dinner at Kellari last night. Highlight of the meal was definitely the grilled octopus appetizer, which was a generous portion of exceedingly tender, meaty octopus lightly grilled (no charred bits) and flavored simply, primarily with lemon and olive oil. It was exquisite...the best I've had in the city. Four very flavorful grilled sardines and a truffled taramasalata rounded out a really enjoyable appetizer course. For our entree two of us split a 2 pound Hawaiian Red Snapper, grilled and served simply with lemon juice, olive oil and capers. My wife really enjoyed the fish. It was well cooked, but I found the meat very bland. Maybe I just don't like Hawaiian Red Snapper...maybe it would have been better served with the skin on? Either way, that was the most disappointing part of the meal for me.

Aside from some silly back and forth over what goes into a Rye Manhattan, service was excellent. Prices were, as others have noted, high. Quite high. I really enjoyed most of the meal, but for the dough I'm on the fence still about whether it's worth it. But it's a very welcoming atmosphere, with a large menu of some very interesting choices that I think will draw me back for at least one more try.

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Had the Aegean Feast last night for $49 per person before our night at the opera, described as:

Three Course Aegean Feast features traditional Greek seafood specialties, fresh grilled whole fish, meat, and an eclectic selection of savory appetizers, all served family style

When I think of a feast, I think of an overabundance of food of many varieties. That is not the case at Kellari. The appetizer of the meal consisted of 4 oysters total for two people, served with cocktail sauce and mignonette on a typical size platter of ice. The other appetizer was a Greek salad of feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and green peppers - with loads of plump juicy tomatoes. Neither were particularly eclectic. The third course was the lavraki (or branzino), a small piece of fish with crispy seared skin, served with a side of sauteed kale. It's a simple but well executed dish. The fourth course was a single lamb chop served with sauteed Brussels sprouts. The lamb chop was slightly gamy but not bad - again, a simple preparation with no sauce. Lastly came the dessert. We wife and I joked about ordering pizza when we get home (I did end up eating some chips at home for a midnight snack).

While the food's pretty decent, I was overall really disappointed by their "feast." Lack of variety and not enough food. I have a healthy appetite but I'm not a big guy. I've left Komi, Zahav, and Palena with tons of leftovers. I was hungry after eating at Kellari. And nothing was served family style other than the 4 oysters on a platter of ice. I feel sandbagged by their menu description.

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Nice, quick, and even economical lunch here with a friend the other day. Walked in on spur of moment and sat at the bar. Avoided main courses and just grabbed some mussels (santorini?) and the rapini with garlic and feta side....yummy bread and hummus even for us cheapskates. Friend's shrimp salad looked quite good too. Mussels were plump and ouzo-accented sauce was out of the Belgian norm and great for dipping. Rapini simple and fresh. Little bag of Greek cookies on the way out the door to snack on walking across farragut park.........maybe we spent 40 bucks between us? Great lunch!

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I don't understand why the happy hour at Kellari isn't more popular - especially in a neighborhood without a lot of similar options. $4 Yuengling, 5$ wine, $7 cocktails, plus gratis olives and cheese/toast. They also have a small 'tapas' menu available in the bar area with a dozen options for around $10 or less.

I think the Crispy Sea Bass Souvlaki may be one of the best and most surprising plates I've had recently. Crispy cubes of moist sea bass served over what's described as an almond-garlic mousse that was similar to soft mashed potatoes with a nice acidic tinge, surrounded by a beet sauce. This is $5.95. Jumbo shrimp brings several large, well-cooked pieces grilled on top of a smokey eggplant purée for 9.95. Not a large variety of oysters, but for $1.50 during happy hour, I like the ability to get as many or as few as I'm in the mood for - blue points seem to be the most common east coast choice. I also think the grilled calamari can make a believer out of those tired of getting fried rubber bands- a light char over tender squid with a splash of lemon.

Kellari is certainly worth a visit for lunch/dinner, but from 4-7, seven days a week, it's a great happy hour stopover downtown.

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Thanks for the tip, genericeric!

Stopped by for a few bites during happy hour and was very impressed. The dips and small plates were all very well prepared and seasoned, and well priced for the portions. We had the lamb ribs, fried calamari, and truffled taramasalata and was particularly impressed with the truffled taramasalata, especially at $5 during happy hour.

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Lovely dinner at Kellari last night in honor of my daughter's 23th birthday. I have always found Kellari to be a very friendly and hospitable place and the staff outdid themselves last night. Those who arrived early enjoyed the free olive and cheese toast bar (nothing like perfectly prepared crostini and huge hunks of Greek sheepsmilk cheese with big knives sticking out of them to start the evening. Dining room was quite full but service perked along. I suppose it's a bit kitschy but I love walking over to the display of fish and having our server explain what's on offer for the evening. I expressed interest in the little barbounia and our server suggested three, which was a perfect portion and weighed in at about a pound. Two of my companions shared the red snapper. Difficult to wrong with any of them as the preparation is very simple. Other highlights for me were the roasted beet salad and the spinach and arborio rice side (we were also mistakenly brought, then gifted and not charged for, an arugula salad which was also tasty). Lovely crisp white wine from Santorini. And, though I'd not mentioned my daughter's birthday when I reserved (she is low-key about these things), our server got wind from the conversation that it was her special day and brought a BIG slice of a not-too-sweet chocolate cake with a candle out for her with a pile of extra forks. As we each grabbed one of the tasty cookies off the tray on the way out, the hostess called us over and handed us each a little BAG of the cookies...and our server rushed over through the crowded dining room and smilingly urged her to give the birthday girl a few EXTRA bags...so we left with our arms full. Price tag with tip for the 5 of us (with wine) was just over $200 - - pricey but not by any means stratospheric (my younger son was content with the mushroom rissotto side as his entree which brought our tab down). And you do feel as though you've gotten value for money between the always cheerful service and all the little extras (the olives, the cheese toast, the cookies, our cake and the extra salad!). Kellari has become a special place for us and has not let us down yet.

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