how nice to take a break from my usual snacking routine-think sitting on a curb near a food cart-and perch at the bar at pera, a beautiful modern brasserie that brings the flavors and style of "istanbul's soho" to the suits near grand central. in an atmosphere this swish i didn't expect to find generously portioned "pidettes," mini turkish pide, for only $4. the mound of piquant spinach and pine nuts would surely sink its puffy turkish bread "boat" if put to the test. the ground lamb pidette, on a thin round crust, has strong notes of cumin and paprika balanced by a caramelized rosette of red onion.
and if you prefer meze to main courses, stop in for pera's "may meze madness"-any three meze for $9. there are interesting items like soujuk beef sausage rounds on real lollipop sticks stuck, inexplicably, in a jar of salt-hmmm-or plump, roasted chicken livers in a sticky, sweet pomegranate sauce-a must. also noteworthy are fried artichoke hearts drizzled in smoky paprika mayo sauce and crispy phyllo rolls stuffed with bracing kasseri and loire cheeses. the whipped roasted eggplant was watery and bland, but with 15 small dishes from which to choose, you'll find something a-mezing this may!
meze madness is available monday to friday throughout may from 3:30 p.m. to closing, and on saturday from 5:30 p.m. -- pera mediterranean brasserie 303 madison ave. (betw. 42nd and 41st streets) 212-878-6301
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