Ousia brings Greek essence to the West Side

In WAG’s 2016 issue, “Celebrating Family,” we wrote about the family behind The Livanos Restaurant Group.

Siblings Nick, Bill and Corina oversee the organization, which includes City Limits White Plains, Moderne Barn in the family’s hometown of Armonk and two Manhattan eateries — the flagship Oceana and Molyvos, named for the ancestral hometown on the Greek isle of Lesbos that the family returns to each year.

At the time, the Livanoses were looking to add to the family portfolio with a new place in Via 57West, described as the gateway to the hip, happening residential block the Durst Organization has developed on the West Side.

“We chose this location, because it was in a burgeoning neighborhood with a lot of opportunity for growth,” says third-generation restaurateur Johnny Livanos. “Only a block from the West Side Highway with more than 14,000 new apartments being built, we saw a need for a new dining experience for the community and for those who are traveling into the city who need easy access to a more sophisticated dining scene.”

We’re happy to report that the family’s plan became a reality in February with the opening of Ousia, where we had the pleasure of dining on a recent Saturday night.

Ousia is Greek for “essence” or “flavor” and there were plenty of flavors to relish amid the striking décor, with its woodsy base notes and a blue and yellow palette that evokes the contrasting primary colors saturating Vincent van Gogh’s Provençal canvases (with a touch of Giorgio de Chirico in the restaurant’s surrealistic paintings).  

“The design intent of Ousia was to create an atmosphere that reflected the spirit and essence of Greek cuisine without identifying with one specific area or iconography,” says Kim Nathanson of the Niemitz Design Group, who designed the 7,200-square-foot space. “The interior finishes — such as cypress wood on the walls and bar, encaustic cement tiles on the floor and a mixture of marble and stone for the bar top can be representative of many locations throughout the Mediterranean. They are all rich in texture and color but are balanced in their use.

“The space itself is designed as an open plan, including a partial view of the kitchen. The bar’s location serves as a central dividing tool along with other fixed furniture, creating intimate seating areas but always allowing the customer to share in a unique communal experience.”

Complementing that design, Johnny Livanos, general manager and Nick’s son, named for the grandfather who started it all in 1957; director of operations Kamal Kouiri, who oversees the wine program; and executive chef Carlos Carreto have put together a Greek-infused Mediterranean menu that is all kinds of savory, creamy, sweet goodness. 

“Greek food has always had a special place in our lives and our hearts,” Johnny says. “We wanted to create a restaurant that offers Greek cuisine but also be a neighborhood restaurant. Greek food is a comfort food, so we wanted to create a very warm and casual environment for residents and visitors in the community.”

From a classic hummus, in which we ravenously dipped pita bread; to a melting Greek take on pizza; the expertly seared lamb chops; the superbly crispy cod, served with beets on a bed of skordalia (a Greek garlic, potato spread); to the baklava trio, the food never stopped coming and we never stopped talking, laughing and eating.

Granted, we know the owners. But at Ousia, everyone seems to be a friend of the family. Standing outside afterward on a warm, breezy night — taking in the sleek, buzzing surroundings and reluctant to let a magical evening in movie Manhattan end — we watched as Nick held the door open for an elderly patron.

Great food, great décor and great service from the owners on down.

That’s the “essence” of Ousia.

For more, visit ousianyc.com.

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