Ousia: an Urban Oasis with Homey Ambience in NYC

The stylish interior of Ousia in Manhattan. Photo: Courtesy of Ousia.

By Aria Socratous

NEW YORK – Ousia, meaning essence or flavor, is a unique and welcome addition to the NYC dining scene, a Greek restaurant with lively atmosphere and a very vivid energy. The eclectic blend is an interesting mix of modern and homey sophisticated ambience, which creates a warm, uniquely interesting and welcoming vibe.Conveniently located on the waterfront at 629 West 57th Street, just off the West Side Highway, Ousia is an urban oasis where friends and family can gather over shared plates, craft beer, and signature cocktails to start or end the night.

“We explored the option and we decided to take the opportunity to open a new restaurant in a new, exciting neighborhood. After we found the location we explored what kind of cuisine we wanted and we reached the conclusion that Greek food has alwayshad a special place in our lives and in our hearts. We wanted a restaurant to offer Greek cuisine and also be a neighborhood restaurant. Greek food is a comfort food, so we wanted to create a very warm and casual environment,” states Johnny Livanos, who along with his brother Enrico manages Ousia.

Livanos’ family owns Molyvos, one of the most renowned Greek restaurants in New York, renowned for its rustic Greek country cooking, but Johnny never worked in the family business.

Johnny Livanos. Photo: Courtesy of Ousia.

He did, however begin in the restaurant business at a young age. At 14, he was making milkshakes and desserts, and then he went to college to study restaurant management. Livanos moved to California and then to Washington, DC, where he started working in a restaurant with Greek, Lebanese, and Turkish cuisine. Later on, he decided to return to New York and made the big decision to start his own restaurant business.

“Molyvos is more traditional and Ousia is little bit more modern and playful. Eventually in Ousia we are focusing on sharing plates family style. All our dishes are medium size plates and the idea is for the table to have several dishes. The dishes are like Greek mezedes, adjusted though to the American taste,” he contends.

“Owning a restaurant is very tough job. You have to be there all the time. The biggest thing is training and hiring stuff. Owning a restaurant is extremely helpful but creating new things and attracting new clients is a goal. We cannot depend on Molyvos’ reputation, we have to build our own reputation.”

Ousia has gained recognition for its signature dishes like cannellini and beet- sesame marinated beets with manouri cheese and flatbread, the turkey leg confit with roasted butternut squash and spiced honey, and also for its signature deserts like baklava trio, which combines three different baklava flavors, the classic, traditional baklava, the chocolate almond baklava, and the tres leches baklava.

All the produce is fresh and local and lountza, feta cheese, olive oil, ouzo, and wine are imported from Greece.

Executive Chef Carlos Carreto’s kitchentakes diners on a Grecian culinary journey through a variety of dishes and appetizers and a whole section of vegetarian focused menu items. Carreto also manages Molyvos’ kitchen.

The wine cellar is extensive and includes limited-quantity labels not found anywhere else in the city. Greek wine represents 65% of the wine in the wine list. The wine list from France, Spain, and Italy is also extensive because Ousia focuses on Mediterranean wine. There is also a very big focus on cocktails and the spirit collection, several types of ouzo and mastiha, and as Livanos noted, Ousia educates their clients about these types of cocktails.

With its homey, yet modern environment, great signature dishes and cocktails, and very good service, Ousia offers an excellent dining experience.

Ousia is open 7 days a week. Lunch is served Monday-Friday from 12PM-5PM, Dinner on Monday 5PM-10PM, Tuesday-Friday 5PM-11PM, Saturday/Sunday 3PM-11PM/10PM, and Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11AM-3PM.The website is ousianyc.com.