Being a foodie doesn’t mean you eat anything anytime. It doesn’t even mean you only eat the best. It means you love food, and you will try anything to find the best. However, it’s a journey, not a destination, and it you don’t keep expanding your horizon, then the journey is over. I just recently chuckled when a well known foodie confessed, he didn’t try grilled octopus until just recently, but if I’m one hundred percent honest, there’s plenty I haven’t tried because of my own misconceptions and prejudices.
Mediterranean food was aways one of them. I just thought, hey, it’s lamb and food on a stick. But then I just kept hearing about these amazing Middle Eastern restaurants, and I started questioning my limited (if not nonexisiting) understanding of the cuisine. So I went to educate myself and my taste buds, and I stand corrected. It is absolutely fantastic.
This last Restaurant Week I grabbed my daughter Sasha and made my way over to 10th Avenue to give this highly recommended spot a try. It’s a fresh looking place with friendly staff, the smell of spices and grilled foods are embracing you as you enter. I was super excited to finally get my hands on this food, and being that during Restaurant Week you will be served three courses, I was going to try plenty.
Our appetizers were Hamachi Crudo with yuzu, school powder, radish, Persian cucumber, sorrel, yogurts and spicy granola (heavenly), and Eggplant with crushed tomato, Fresno pepper, oregano, olive oil and feta (fresh and flavorful). For the main course Sasha chose the Lamb Kebab with roasted red onion, plum tomatoes, pine nuts, oregano, tahini and Taboon flat bread (outstanding), and I had the Grilled Tuna Steak with crispy Jerusalem artichoke, white asparagus and pearl onion in a harissa charred tomato butter sauce (exceptional). Desserts were a Rice Pudding with coconut milk, dehydrated seminola cake, blood orange coulis, lime zest and crispy apple, as well as Silan with vanilla ice cream, puffed rice, caramelized pistachios, date honey, and shredded Halva. I couldn’t have dreamt of a better finish. This introduction into Mediterranean food was exactly what I needed.
For more info on Taboon click here
This highly touted fairly new restaurant is located on 20th Street in the Flatiron District. I heard it was a busy place, with reservations not easy to come by, so I tried my luck right upon opening at 5 pm, and landed a nice spot right by the window. When I dine alone, I usually order three dishes, two to eat at the restaurant, one to go, so I can get lots of tasting under my belt. Sometimes I even get more food to go, if the price is right. Here I ordered three items, and I wish I could have had more, I swear, everything was absolutely, one hundred percent delicious! This place has earned its good reputation!
I had no idea what a Panipuri was, but I ordered it anyway, just to realize that not only did I try it before (under a different name), but that this particular version was the best thing I ever ate. It is a yuzu buttermilk foam filled panipuri topped with tuna ceviche, dried apricots, almonds and habañero. I can’t even tell you how much I loved this dish. Next up was the Jerusalem Sesame Bagel, which is a freshly baked (gigantic) sesame bagel with the most scrumptious lima bean messabaha and cumin on the side, and with shipka peppers. It’s enough to feed two an appetizer, but I ate the whole darn thing, it was too good to save any. The main dish was Horias, which is a grilled Lamb Kebab in a pita with eggplant and Amba, served with a salad. Super yummy! This restaurant is on top of my list of favorites for sure.
For more info on Nur click here
This Lebanese eatery is located in my old stomping grounds on the Lower East Side, right on Avenue A. It is well known for its tableside Shawarma, but I didn’t feel like being predictable, and opted for a array of small plates to get a few different tastes of the cuisine as opposed to just Shawarma and French fries. I was with my trusted side kick Sasha, and we loved this place! At the time they only served wine and beer (I’m assuming a liquor license issue), so we had some sparkling wine with our lovely dishes.
We started out with Batata Harra, which is sautéed spicy potato cubes with cilantro, garlic and red pepper flakes. Next was Labne, a classic Levantine cream cheese with extra virgin olive oil, and you dip it up with fresh Lebanese bread. Kibbeh Kras is Lebanon’s national dish: a mixture of lean beef and bulgur wheat filled with a mixture of ground beef, diced onions and almonds. In other words: fried meatballs! They were delicious of course. Last but not least was Kafta with Jebne Bi Ajin, which is basically a Lebanese pizza on a flat bread with onions, parsley, Lebanese spices and cheese. It was a great dinner with a very authentic vibe, with some great middle eastern music to set the mood to dine alongside. Very nice!
For more info on Au Za’atar click here