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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Kanella - Cypriot food in Center CIty

We finally tried Kanella this weekend, and were somewhat surprised to find it less than packed, it's gotten some very good press lately, so we assumed it would be jammed. It did get full-ish later, but I'm pretty sure I noticed people walking-in without reservations. I suspect it might be summer-in-Philly syndrome, everything seems a bit slow. Anyway, go now, I'm sure it's going to be packed solid come fall.

We really enjoyed it a lot, out of the many things we ordered we didn't dislike anything, and there were only a couple of things that didn't thrill us.

We started with two apps from the specials.

Grilled Cuttlefish

Very nicely grilled to add a smoky edge, but it still remained tender. I liked the texture, a little more substantial than squid, but still delicate. The citrus dressing brightened it nicely.

Beef Tongue

Very soft, almost falling-apart, it reminded us of long-cooked brisket. And we mean that in a good way... Great intense dark sauce.

Loukanigo Spitisio: Grilled Cyprus Sausage

Loved the grilled crunchiness to the casing, and the spicy flavors within.

Grilled Haloumi

-eh... I don't think there was anything wrong with this, I think I might just not like haloumi all that much. The cheese was kind of dry and mostly tasted salty, and not much else.

Octopus Kathisto

Again - eh... not bad, but we're spoiled here in philly with lots of great octupus. I found this one a little bland and a little chewy, but really not unpleasant in any way, just not up on the same level as most everything else we had here. This was braised, a welcome variation from simple grilling, but in the end we weren't all that excited by it.


Really good meatballs, interesting spicing, crusty but still moist.

For Entrées:

Kouneli (Rabbit Stew)

This was my favorite, and that seemed to be the consensus around the table. The rabbit had an intriguing flavor, I'm not sure if it was from its rabbit-ness or the other ingredients in the stew. The meat was tender and succulent, infused with the slightly sweet herby broth. I think I tasted some of Kanella's namesake cinnamon in this dish, which worked really well. Excellent.


These had very nice flavor, but as is so often the case with quail, it was a little tricky to get at the tasty parts. In a different preparation once could pick up pieces and gnaw on them, but in this soupy presentation that would get a bit messy. So, although it tasted good, it was a little annoying to do battle with.


The crusty outsides of this were just spectacular. And the rarer insides were good too, although some parts of it were a little too rare, to the point of being chewy. Still, overall very enjoyable.

Grilled Dorado

A close second to the rabbit in my opinion, this was a very high quality fish, with a pleasing twist from being grilled in a grape leaf, imparting some of that flavor while protecting the flesh a bit. But there was still some good smoke from the grill infiltrating into the fish, a subtle sauce underneath adding to the complexity.

We didn't really have room for dessert, but curiosity got the best of us, and I'm glad we indulged.

I've forgotten the names of these, but we started with a semolina custard in phyllo

This was quite tasty, it reminded me of a very good cheese blintz, but flakier, crispier...

Lemon Yogurt Mousse

Vividly tart, this was a full-on palate-cleanser! I loved it.

German Chocolate Mousse with lavender ice cream (special)

A bit more restrained than the lemon, this was still pretty intense. The lavender ice cream was perhaps too subtle, but still a very nice parter for the chocolate.

A creamy pannacotta-ish thing with rosewater...
This was as restrained as the lemon mousse was loud, but each had charms. It was not very sweet, which appealed strongly to some in our party, not as much to others. I liked it.

And we finished with thick Greek coffee

Our server was very good, giving helpful suggestions, and pacing the courses very well. He offered to bring the apps in a few waves, which is a welcome alternative to being inundated with plates, especially when over-ordering, as we tend to. He was also very good at keeping wine glasses filled, and overall checking in on us, even though it did finally get a little busy later.

The overall vibe was very pleasant there, we even ended up chatting with neighboring tables. One party in particular give us some helpful reviews of dishes we didn't get to try (rabbit tenderloin appetizer gets a thumbs-up.) I suspect they might be checking-in here, if so - hey, hi, nice to meet you folks!

We liked this place a lot, there are a few dishes I'd get again anytime, and there were several more things on the menu we want to try.


  1. Anonymous8:44 PM

    I'm one of the people from the next table, and wanted to say hi back. It was a pleasant evening, although I didn't love the food as much as I had hoped too. Don't give up on haloumi cheese until you've tried the version at Zahav (tiny portion, but so good!).

  2. Hi Vicarious!

    I can understand your not being completely enthralled by the place, not everything was a complete masterpiece. But we had several very good things worth going back for, like the sausage, meatballs, rabbit stew and lamb. And desserts - we liked all the desserts.

    Thanks for the Zahav tip: I'm looking forward to trying that place, and will be sure to get eh Haloumi!