Friends Celebrate Opening Night at Kefi, 120 East Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, October 2018
The wait was worth the end result. Urban Woman and I have been looking forward to the opening of Kefi since I first wrote about it nearly two months ago. We enjoyed the first night of public service along with Urban Brother last night and it was worth the wait. The best quote of the night was his, when he said, “The food and the restaurant could just as easily be in New York City.” (or something very close to that)
And that is true. It feels very “big city,” from the entrance all the way to the bar and the food and cocktails do nothing to diminish the illusion. Owners Jim and Lori Klonaris have brought in Chris Williams (Armada, Cafe Four Cocktail program) and chef Chester Miller, who, along with Lori’s sister Janet Chambers who supplied family recipes, to create a fine dining experience that doesn’t have to break the bank while unfolding like an elegant night out in the city.
What you’ll see here is far more food than we would normally consume, because we wanted to try as much as possible. On a normal night, we’d eat and spend far less. Alcohol, as always, is a big determinant of price and we each had a flight to give us a sample of the cocktails available, as that is a point of emphasis. Between us, we sampled the Fig Smash, Naked and Famous, Old Fashioned, Maid in Cuba and Tears of Chios. We had a hung jury as to our favorite, but I really enjoyed the Naked and Famous.
We shared all our food all night and started with a Pikilia ($22) from the “Breads and Spreads” section of the menu. This comes with three spreads and we chose spicy feta, muhammara and baba ghannouj. Again a divided table, but my favorite was the spicy feta with feta, chili peppers and herbs. The breads were delicious, as well.
From the next menu section, “savory pies,” we selected the Spanakopita ($9, baby spinach, scallions, feta, filo dough). It comes with three pies, perfect for sharing at our table. All the dishes to this point are small and, shared, aren’t overwhelming. We decided to forgo the “For the Table” selections which are larger and we didn’t feel we could make it to the finish line if we went there.
Next up is the “cheese mezze,” and there’s no way we were skipping that. The choice was easy: Saganaki ($12, pan sautéed kesseri cheese, fig, lemon, flambé). The cheese, we were told, is similar to white cheddar, but really, they set that stuff on fire, so what else are you going to pick? It was fabulous.
Since we were paying no attention to health, we skipped the “cold mezze,” which tends toward the more healthy, all vegetarian and mostly salads. More than one looked very good and when we’re back to our semi-healthy normal eating, we’ll probably go there.
Instead, we skipped to the “hot mezze,” and selected two dishes to share, Païdákia ($16, roasted lamb chops, grilled apricots, cherry demi glace) and Garides ($15, large shrimp, garlic-butter sauce, smoky tomato, feta, grilled country bread). It’s impossible to say one thing was better than all the rest on a night like this, but if forced, the roasted lamb chops would have to be in the discussion. Tender, delicious, cooked just right and the sauce was worth the dish by itself. I loved the Garides, as well. I’d had the octopodi recommended by the lovely ladies pictured here, but our table just wasn’t down for that on this night.
For our “after mezze,” or dessert, we selected Kokakia ($7, Greek cream puffs with chocolate glaze, raspberry sauce) to share. It was a perfect finish to an excellent meal. I should add that I enjoyed a glass of Poggio Sangiovese ($7). They have one red and one white by the glass, but a half-dozen of each by the bottle. Also, we started our meal with a French Press pot of Three Bears coffee and ended our meal with a second pot (we loved the cups).
There are a number of gluten-free and vegetarian options spread throughout the menu and, again, we ate far more than would normally be the case for us, so a couple could eat fairly economically, if they made the effort.
The beautiful space (I’ll save the words and let you look at the photographs) along with the excellent food and eclectic playlist of cool background music, plus the clear effort that went into noise control (we could speak quietly at our table and hear each other) all contributes to a place that feels like it’s ready-made for a grown-up, classy night out on the town. We lingered for three hours and that is clearly the intention. It’s not fast food, it is excellent food in a great atmosphere that might just make you feel like you visited a big city, but it’s just a short walk from everything downtown.
Reservations will be available through the website but, at present, are made by phone at 865-474-1492. Hours are, Tuesday through Wednesday, 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM, Thursday through Saturday, 4:00 PM to 1:00 AM and Sunday (brunch) from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Happy Hour is from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM Tuesday through Friday and a Late Night Menu is in place after 11:00 PM Thursday through Saturday. (Full Menu Here)