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Varka - Ramsey, NJ


fatcatbrew
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Thanks Rosie - sorry about the incorrect name. A friend just told me that the name, Varka, means small fishing boat and that the restaurant has a Greek menu, mostly fish with a South City Grill atmosphere and pricing. I may check it out this week.

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How can I change the name of this topic to Varka?

Went to Varka last night in Ramsey. Unfortunately, the food wasn't very good. It was their second night open and they had already run out of some of their varieties of fish, which they are supposed to specialize in. The decor is nice and quite an improvement over the previous tenant. Seafood was not cooked correctly and overly seasoned with sea salt and butter. No one in our party really enjoyed their food. The owners also own Roxanne's in Mahwah located in the old Nobody's Inn location.

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Restarting the thread (ramsey as a topic name is too vague)

QUOTE(fatcatbrew @ Mar 25 2005, 09:00 PM)

How can I change the name of this topic to Varka?

Went to Varka last night in Ramsey. Unfortunately, the food wasn't very good. It was their second night open and they had already run out of some of their varieties of fish, which they are supposed to specialize in. The decor is nice and quite an improvement over the previous tenant. Seafood was not cooked correctly and overly seasoned with sea salt and butter. No one in our party really enjoyed their food. The owners also own Roxanne's in Mahwah located in the old Nobody's Inn location.

As I joined Fatcatbrew last night I agree.

High Points: Bartender, Head Waiter (Spiro), Wine list, Varka Chips, Bread & Olive Oil, Decor

Low Points: Rest of staff is eager but untrained (think diner staff), my fish was "ok" but nothing remarkable, Greens were uninspired.

I will also say that I went to Varka for lunch on Wed, had Petit Filet Mignon that was terrific. French fries on side were a bit oily and parslied to death (Parsley-lemon-salt-butter-olive oil combos are repeated often here). Spiro waited on me - good guy, right customer first attitude etc. The spinach pie was nice too.

All in all I hope it improves. I can see a place like Varka fitting in well. But the food simply needs to be fresher, lighter-brighter with more interest.

Right now Varka is just a nice looking diner. I am hopeful as it will be one of the few local places to have outdoor seating. I will also say it is an improvement over Spruce Street Grill. But then again so would a Wendy's......

Slainte' !

Hike

Edited by Hikeleader (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

I strongly dissagree with fatcatbrew. I think that Ramsey is very lucky to have a restaurant like Varka! It's not that the food is "uninspiring" but is great in it's simplicity. The overly decorated and complicated dishes are so 80s, who wants that anymore?!

Restaurants with the same concept such as Varka are a great success in New York City (ex. Milos, Avra, Molivos, Thalassa, Trata...) It's great, healthy, fresh food (specializing in seafood) simply grilled and drizzled with olive oil, lemon and herbs. And the fries I had, were not parlsleied, but sprinkled with Greek oregano.

The staff is good for a new restaurant, and will only get better as everyone feels more comfortable and knowledgable.

Some of the appetizers I had were amazing! I had the octopus, which was sooo tender, the stuffed, grilled calamari was amazing and the beet salad was not what you would expect, it tasted great!

All in all, I think Varka is great and I hope the people of Ramsey and all of NJ can appriciate it as much as I do. It's just as good as Milos, Molivos and Avra without having to make the trip to the city. And by the way, I heard that their chef was the chef in Avra.

Best,

Best of the best

Restarting the thread (ramsey as a topic name is too vague)

QUOTE(fatcatbrew @ Mar 25 2005, 09:00 PM)

How can I change the name of this topic to Varka?

Went to Varka last night in Ramsey.  Unfortunately, the food wasn't very good.  It was their second night open and they had already run out of some of their varieties of fish, which they are supposed to specialize in.  The decor is nice and quite an improvement over the previous tenant.    Seafood was not cooked correctly and overly seasoned with sea salt and butter.    No one in our party really enjoyed their food.  The owners also own Roxanne's in Mahwah located in the old Nobody's Inn location.

As I joined Fatcatbrew last night I agree.

High Points: Bartender, Head Waiter (Spiro), Wine list, Varka Chips, Bread & Olive Oil, Decor

Low Points: Rest of staff is eager but untrained (think diner staff), my fish was "ok" but nothing remarkable, Greens were uninspired.

I will also say that I went to Varka for lunch on Wed, had Petit Filet Mignon that was terrific. French fries on side were a bit oily and parslied to death (Parsley-lemon-salt-butter-olive oil combos are repeated often here). Spiro waited on me - good guy, right customer first attitude etc. The spinach pie was nice too.

All in all I hope it improves. I can see a place like Varka fitting in well. But the food simply needs to be fresher, lighter-brighter with more interest.

Right now Varka is just a nice looking diner. I am hopeful as it will be one of the few local places to have outdoor seating. I will also say it is an improvement over Spruce Street Grill. But then again so would a Wendy's......

Slainte' !

Hike

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I strongly dissagree with fatcatbrew.  I think that Ramsey is very lucky to have a restaurant like Varka!  It's not that the food is "uninspiring" but is great in it's simplicity.  The overly decorated and complicated dishes are so 80s, who wants that anymore?! 

Restaurants with the same concept such as Varka are a great success in New York City (ex. Milos, Avra, Molivos, Thalassa, Trata...)  It's great, healthy, fresh food (specializing in seafood) simply grilled and drizzled with olive oil, lemon and herbs.  And the fries I had, were not parlsleied, but sprinkled with Greek oregano.

The staff is good for a new restaurant, and will only get better as everyone feels more comfortable and knowledgable.

Some of the appetizers I had were amazing! I had the octopus, which was sooo tender,  the stuffed, grilled calamari was amazing and the beet salad was not what you would expect, it tasted great!

All in all, I think Varka is great and I hope the people of Ramsey and all of NJ can appriciate it as much as I do.  It's just as good as Milos, Molivos and Avra without having to make the trip to the city.  And by the way, I heard that their chef was the chef in Avra.

Best,

Best of the best

Restarting the thread (ramsey as a topic name is too vague)

QUOTE(fatcatbrew @ Mar 25 2005, 09:00 PM)

Any chance you're affiliated with the joint, Best?

"All humans are out of their f*cking minds -- every single one of them."

-- Albert Ellis

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No, I'm just a healthy food lover Johnny,

Best

I strongly dissagree with fatcatbrew.  I think that Ramsey is very lucky to have a restaurant like Varka!  It's not that the food is "uninspiring" but is great in it's simplicity.  The overly decorated and complicated dishes are so 80s, who wants that anymore?! 

Restaurants with the same concept such as Varka are a great success in New York City (ex. Milos, Avra, Molivos, Thalassa, Trata...)  It's great, healthy, fresh food (specializing in seafood) simply grilled and drizzled with olive oil, lemon and herbs.  And the fries I had, were not parlsleied, but sprinkled with Greek oregano.

The staff is good for a new restaurant, and will only get better as everyone feels more comfortable and knowledgable.

Some of the appetizers I had were amazing! I had the octopus, which was sooo tender,  the stuffed, grilled calamari was amazing and the beet salad was not what you would expect, it tasted great!

All in all, I think Varka is great and I hope the people of Ramsey and all of NJ can appriciate it as much as I do.  It's just as good as Milos, Molivos and Avra without having to make the trip to the city.  And by the way, I heard that their chef was the chef in Avra.

Best,

Best of the best

Restarting the thread (ramsey as a topic name is too vague)

QUOTE(fatcatbrew @ Mar 25 2005, 09:00 PM)

Any chance you're affiliated with the joint, Best?

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Thanks Rosie,

I called the restaurant - his name is George Georgiades. I run a google search under chef George Georgiades and it turns out that he was the chef at Avra and he has great reviews!

Best

Best of the Best---Welcome to eGullet.  Do you know the name of the chef at Varka?

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I would be willing to give Varka another try after they have worked out all of their kinks.

I do not have anything against "uncomplicated" food. However, I do have a problem when food is undercooked, overcooked, incomplete, and/or redundant.

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Who get's to decide when food is "complete" or "redundant"? In a seafood restaurant, well, you have a lot of fish. But I found Varka to have far more than just seafood. If I recall correctly, they had steaks, salads and a great list of appetizers. And may be I just got lucky, but I thought my food was cooked to perfection. I think it all depends on personal taste.

I think that it's part of the Greek diet, seasoning with EVOO, lemon and herbs. I've been to Milos, Trata, Molivos, and they all seem to do that. I don't look at that as redundant. May be you should try those restaurants, if you're ever in the city, and if still don't like that or think it's over/under cooked, or incomplete, or redundant, well, may be it's just you.

I would be willing to give Varka another try after they have worked out all of  their kinks. 

I do not have anything against "uncomplicated" food.  However, I do have a problem when food is undercooked, overcooked, incomplete, and/or redundant.

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Everyone has their own preferences and tastes, and that is what makes us individual.

I am glad you had a perfection experience at Varka, but my experience was well below that.

My reference to food being redundant referred to fish, potatoes, and vegetables all seasoned exactly the same way.... They may just have well been mixed all together. A friend's shellfish was inedible. The octopus was the consistency of an eraser.

Are you sure you aren't the owner of Varka? You seem to be taking this all too personally...

  "well, may be it's just you".
Edited by fatcatbrew (log)
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No, I'm not the owner :biggrin:

I just really liked the food there and am very happy to have them around! I hope one day you'll agree... I think, like I said before, the seasoning is just simple and healthy, and that's what I really liked about it, I find the heavy sauses to fattening. And I really liked my octopus...

In any case, I've had enough trying to beat the same words over the head, may be high end dining is just not your style...

So long fat cat

Everyone has their own preferences and tastes, and that is what makes us individual. 

I am glad you had a perfection experience at Varka, but my experience was well below that.

My reference to food being redundant referred to fish, potatoes, and vegetables all seasoned exactly the same way....  They may just have well been mixed all together.    A friend's shellfish was inedible.  The octopus was the consistency of an eraser. 

Are you sure you aren't the owner of Varka?  You seem to be taking this all too personally...

                     

  "well, may be it's just you".

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Methinks "Best of the Best" doth protest too much...

Edited to add: It'll be interesting to see if he/she shows up on any other threads or if this was a one-time appearance.

Edited by JohnnyH (log)

"All humans are out of their f*cking minds -- every single one of them."

-- Albert Ellis

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In any case, I've had enough trying to beat the same words over the head, may be high end dining is just not your style...

So long fat cat

Wow, are personal insults necessary.

I will rise above it though, and allow that in itself to state my "style".

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  • 1 month later...

Just arrived home from an exceptionally great meal at Varka.

My companion and I were at a loss as to where to dine and we headed up Franklin Turnpike, checking out places in Ho Ho Kus through Allendale, but no luck. It being a Monday, most were closed.

On the verge of hitting 17 for Ginger & Spice, we went left instead of right and ended up in downtown Ramsey. Stumbled on Varka, and remembering an egullet mention -- though couldn't remember exactly what was said, other than Varka = a small fishing boat -- in we went.

The atmosphere is basically a very contemporary Greek dining room... upscale, but comfortable with wood and candles, an interesting staircase, a textured plaster entranceway to what seemed to be a private dining room and a large but seemingly quiet bar on one side of the room.

The menu is basically divided up into a very large selection of Greek appetizers, a few side salads (no meat) and a couple of seafood entrees on one side of the menu and a vast variety of fish listed under the 'served whole' section, taking up most of the second page. There are also a few meat dishes... filet mignon, lamb & a roasted chicken to name a few.

We were a little puzzled over what and how to order. First impulse was to split an appetizer, order a couple of fish (cost by the pound) and a side or two. We both agreed that the array of appetizers was so appealing that ordering a few appetizers and splitting an entree seemed like the best and most fun way to go. We ordered the Greek Spread appetizer, the stuffed calamari and a fried cheese dish (the name escapes me at the moment) We split the special entree, Loupe (sp?) de Mer over vegetables. First, the appetizers. ABSOLUTELY incredible. As my Greek spelling is all but non-existent, please forgive my decidedly non-Greek descriptions about to follow: The yogurt/garlic/onion dip was cool and tangy, the almond/oil/potato dip soothing and creamy. My table mate thoroughly enjoyed the eggplant dip and the pink caviar dip with capers. The dips were accompanied by warm, soft, grilled pita that seemed to be homemade. Delightful. And when we ran out of pita, they graciously brought more and we had the plate left on the table for dipping and mixing throughout the meal. Not to be overlooked, the stuffed calamari had an almost remoulade-ish taste. WONDERFUL. Grilled, whole calamari stuffed with the sauce, tomatoes and other little goodies. The fried cheese was exactly that.. a large, thin slice of cheese that had been pan-fried enough to brown the outside and melt the interior. Served with lemon slices, we finished off the cheese along with our other appetizers.

A particularly nice touch was that they split our shared entree in the kitchen and what was served looked like two complete meals. The fish was tender and fresh and the broth was boulliabase-like. After such a powerhouse appetizer course, I was only disappointed in the entree as far as the down-home, cooked in mom's kitchen feel to the dish made it more comfort food than zesty, contemporary Greek. My partner enjoyed the entree very much. I must add that I am not a mushroom person either, and this dish was filled with them. Again, I have to stress that the fish itself was very good. Of course, entree or no entree, I continued to feast on the grilled pita and dips left over from the appetizer course!

We decided to take a look at the dessert menu and were confronted with so many wonderful choices. We went with the Greek Yogurt with honey, walnuts and sour cherries. This creamy mound of tart yogurt was set off perfectly by the honey and walnuts. The cherries added a splash of flavor, making this dish a great ending to a memorable meal.

I can definitely see how ordering the typical dinner for two (app, entree + side) could lead to dissapointment here. I really think the fun of Varka is their variety of appetizers and as I write this, I am already thinking of the things we can order the next time back (mmmm... beets... scallops... and I think I saw a shrimp appy). Staring at a whole, deboned, grilled fish might be considered a bit -dare I say - boring ...but if said fish followed a variety of Greek goodies, the simplicity of the fish could almost serve as a -gasp- intermezzo between the appetizer fun and the dessert fun to follow.

I haven't mentioned service, but I think it deserves mention. Attentive, helpful and knowledgeable, our waiter made us feel comfortable and attended to. Can't wait to return!!

Edited by whitetrufflechick (log)
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  • 1 month later...

Having just come back from our first dinner at Varka, I have to agree with those who have enjoyed their meals. We walked in at about 7:30 (Tuesday night) having not made reservations, and found the restaurant filled to capacity, along with about 10 tables outside. The staff was able to promise us a table in 20 minutes, and they came through. We waited at the bar, where we picked from about 12 wines poured by the glass, accompanied by an olive selection. The wine selection could use a few lower priced alternatives-most were in the 30-40 range.

Bread (not anything unique) was served with a small assortment of more olives, humus, and radishes, as well as poured olive oil. Our group of 4 had 4 appetizers, but should have split two. We had two Greek tomato salads--no lettuce, about half red and half yellow tomatoes, along with onions, peppers, zucchini, and feta. The feta cheese was milder than what I expected--I assume Greek and not the standard local stuff I usually have.

We had an order of the outstanding Varka chips, which are slices of eggplant and zucchini crisply fried (greaseless) served with tzatzaki. The fourth appy was grilled sardines, delicious and only mildly fishy.

For main courses, we all had fish--they carry about 10-15 different types, many imported from Greece. They included one grilled whole Royal Dorado (from Greece, similar to porgy), mostly deboned. grilled halibut steak, Chilean sea bass baked and served in a tomato broth, and the winner which was about 7 lighly fried rougets (whole and not deboned). The only mild disappointment was the halibut, which was a little overcooked around the edges. The accompaning greens were called horta, which was described as a mixture of escarole, dandelion and another green I've forgotten--cooked with olive oil and lemon.

We were too full for dessert but decided to try one. Unfortunately the restaurant was out of the Greek yogurt/sour cherries, but a large bowlful of loukoumathes (zeppole like fried dough balls served with honey and cinnamon) were enjoyed. Skipped coffee. They finish you off with two different types of Greek cookies at the greeter's table.

This meal was thoroughly enjoyed by the four of us. Overall the appetizers were fancier adaptations of those seen in a typical Greek restaurant, and the fish were prepared in a simple and healthy manner. In the future we will either choose to share appetizers or share main dishes. The meal ran about 115 per couple including tax, tip and 5 drinks. Admittedly a little high, but with some splitting price can easily be brought down. A similar menu, although at even higher prices, can be seen at www.avrany.com--apparently the chef or owner used to have a connection at Avra, in Manhattan.

Edited by markymark (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...

Went to Varka last night. I give it a B- dining experience.

Waiter Paolo ( Brazilian) was supposed to invite us to walk over to the fish display in the corner of the restaurant, to hopefully oooh and ahhhh over the gorgeous fish we can order. Did not happen until the chef walked by and a person in our party said " Hello Chef! What's good tonight?). Then the Chef questioned Paolo re: above, which I guess is waiter protocol. Whatever. I like to be cajoled if I am going to spend $22 per pound on a fish order. (This is the way they price the fish: preboned, by the pound.) Whatever.

Apps. were variable. We sent back the grilled octopus because it was "chewy" and overly lemoned. The gigantes (fava beans) were awesome, the Greek Salad was not traditional but delicious.

The entrees were all ok, but nothing to write home about. They do not compare to Molyvos or that other place with the long name in NY. Sorry, too lazy to get up and look in my Zagats.

Not to be a bubble popper, because no one wants great dining in our part of NJ more than me....but I will go to It's Greek to Me, which is OK but tons cheaper, or Uncle Nick's on 9th Ave before I go back to Varka. Greek is better downscale than upscale.

Yasoo!

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but I will go to It's Greek to Me, which is OK but tons cheaper, or Uncle Nick's on 9th Ave before I go back to Varka.  Greek is better downscale than upscale.   

Yasoo!

If you like Greek or middle eastern food may I suggest:

It's greek to me in Ridgewood or Westwood is good - take out (or small eat in area) OR A taste of Greece in River Edge/Oradell border is good OR Babylon ? (by where levitz was in River Edge)

But for my $$$ I love a place called Sapphire - it's a little "gem" of a place :raz: it's location is here:

Sapphire Restaurant :wub:

(201) 871-4550

37 Riveredge Rd

Tenafly, NJ 07670

I've been to a place called Samdan up the street and if you're fat they seem to not treat you as well as if you weren't... :sad: we saw this when we went with our fit in laws they sat us quickly and treated us well yet when we went with heavy friends they avoided us like the plague and sat us very slowly... They even asked if we had reservations :blink: when I had called not 30 minutes before :huh: to ask if we would need it being Valentine's day, when I mentioned that they had said we didn't need reservations per my earlier call, they glared down their nose at us and after 30 minutes - I guess they thought we'd get disgusted at waiting.... when the dining area was only 70% full --- and we didn't --- so eventually they sat us and the service sucked. (the food is always great there though.)

Stacey C-Anonymouze@aol.com

*Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads!-G. B. SHAW

JUST say NO... to CENSORSHIP*!

Also member of LinkedIn, Erexchange and DonRockwell.

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Reply to both posts above:

I agree that Varka is a bit expensive for Greek food, but not necessarily for an upper-end fish restaurant. AT $22-26 for a portion of fish, I think the price is in line with most other nicer restaurants in the area. BTW, I saw the owner of one of the It's Greek to Me--I won't say which one--eating at Varka when we were there!!

We like Its Greek to Me, but tend to go there with kids or before a movie--Varka for me is more of an adult Saturday night kind of place. And you're not getting bronzini, etc at IGTM.

I have also been to Samdam many, many, many times. My wife is- shall we say- not thin, and we have always been treated courteously. We find the food to be the best of many of the Turkish places we've tried in Bergen County +Cliffside Park. Haven't been to Sapphire yet, though. Service varies depending on the waiter. Decor unfortunately reminds me of Florida retirement dining halls.

Edited by markymark (log)
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I have also been to Samdam many, many, many times.  My wife is- shall we say- not thin, and we have always been treated courteously.  We find the food to be the best of many of the Turkish places we've tried in Bergen County +Cliffside Park.  Haven't been to Sapphire yet, though. Service varies depending on the

Edited by hollydebra (log)
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