Favorite Dishes, #86: Pougi at Loi Estiatorio


As soon as you step in the door of Loi Estiatorio (132 West 58th Street; 212-713-0015), a waft of fresh herbs, cucumbers, and something indescribably savory fills your senses; it’s an olfactory welcome mat into chef Maria Loi’s elegantly simple restaurant, where she serves a modern take on the rustic food of her Greek homeland.

Loi’s pougi appetizer is an ode to her childhood; growing up on a farm in the small village of Thermos, her mother would offer guests whatever was in the kitchen, and in their house that often meant yogurt, feta, olive oil, tomatoes, and oregano. She’d combine the ingredients, wrap them in a type of butcher paper called hasapoharto, and put it in the oven, to be served warm with her homemade pita bread.

Loi’s version of her mother’s dish comes to the table wrapped in a clear plastic pouch with a side of crisp pita slices; the top of the pouch is snipped by a server and the contents spilled into a small bowl. The warm temperature of the mixture is a sensual delight — this isn’t the typical cold dip, such as tzatziki, that you’d expect — this is a bowl of creamy feta, thick homemade Greek yogurt, roasted grape tomatoes, and pungent dried herbs with a golden, liquid ring of olive oil, as fragrant and delicious as a Mediterranean breeze on a field of wild oregano.

Fork in the Road is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10.

Here’s our countdown up to now:
#100: Laminated Blueberry Brioche at Dominique Ansel Kitchen
#99: Egg Shop’s Golden Bucket Fried Chicken
#98: Ramen Lab’s Torigara Shoyu
#97: Cannoli at Ferdinando’s
#96: Breakfast Sandwich at Dimes
#95: Banana Royal at Eddie’s Sweet Shop
#94: Fletcher’s Burnt Ends
#93: Almayass’s Mante
#92: Empellon Taqueria’s Fish Taco
#91: El Rey’s Sardine Tostada
#90: General Tso’s Pig’s Head at the Cannibal
#89: The Vegetarian at Meat Hook Sandwich Shop
#88: The 21 Club’s Creamy Chicken Hash
#87: Deep-Fried Olives at Via Carota