100 Very Best Restaurants 2014: Ayse

Salty and sweet: Ayse dresses up pastirma—thin slices of dried beef—with crushed pistachios, apricots, and feta. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Many a Greek restaurant bids to summon the spirit of a taverna overlooking the Aegean. This one does it with understated simplicity: cool marble tiles on the floor, embroidered pillows in the booths, a high-ceilinged room awash in soothing blue and white. The young servers appear to have been airlifted from across the pond, attending to tables with a warm, relaxed manner and guiding diners through the exhaustive selection of mezze. These small, boldly flavored dishes amount to a colorful culinary tour of Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon—from lively dips to robustly seasoned kebabs. A separate printed menu reflects chef/owner Ric Ade’s daily market runs, and that slip of paper is the first place you should turn before ordering. Pace yourself for a fine, fitting finish: a glass of cold raki—an anise-flavored liquor that turns milky when poured over ice—with a slice of walnut cake or the buttery house-made fig newtons. 

Open: Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for brunch and dinner. 

Don’t Miss: Cured black olives; Istanbul spread sampler; grilled whole fish (a special); sugar snap peas with almonds; pastirma (air-dried beef); chicken tawook.

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