Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!
Last week, I was invited at Bustan, a restaurant located on the Upper West Side, that serves Mediterranean cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. I was not able to meet with Bustan's new partner and Executive Chef Raphael Hasid, but chatted a bit with his Chef de Cuisine, Christopher Burgess, who brings more than 30 years of experience in the industry, having worked even with Michael White or Anthony Bourdain. He explained to me that they are using a taboon to cook most of the food in their tiny kitchen, a taboon being a wood fire oven with a temperature of 800 degrees and a rotating center so the food cooks evenly.
I like the decor that is modern with lots of tiny details that I am sure have a meaning, but definitely no overly stressing the Mediterranean theme. From the bar with the high chairs wrapped in cow skin, to the banquettes that offered a cozy setting not only for groups of 4 or 5, but also for couples. I also noticed a wall full of paintings representing celebrities such as James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Roger Moore, etc...
I started off by ordering a cocktail but admit that I forgot the name and only remember that it had rye and pear liqueur in it...This was delicious and refreshing and I would definitely order this one the next time I go there.
They then brought us some homemade bread that was cooked in the taboon. This bread was fantastic and I had to pace myself as I knew some more food would come.
For appetizers, we chose three mazettim, these small plates perfect for sharing. There was:
The falafel basket served with tahini and a pickled mango sauce: they were really good, a bit crispy and not greasy at all.
Moroccan cigars: crispy feuille de brick stuffed with braised short ribs, mushrooms and onions, and served with tahini and harissa tomato salsa (spicy!). This reminded me one of the dishes from my family called bestels a la viande that are made also with feuille de brick and some ground meat, pan fried and simply served with lemon. It was succulent, delightfully crispy, the filling was very flavorful.
Homemade lamb merguez (lamb sausage) served with a Moroccan red lentils stew with carrots, spinach and celery roots. I admit that I did not like the merguez that was a bit bland. However, the stew was amazing! It had so much flavors from the spices used, that I could not stop eating it with the spoon or with the bread. Even if the sausage is not that great, I recommend this dish just for the stew.
At that point I switched to wine and ended up with a glass of Mettler Family Vineyards 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon that was very good, fruity (you could smell and taste raspberry) and bold. I should mention that it was a big glass and I saw that they served a generous amount of wine to every patron and not just me, because of the blog.
Then came our entrées and mine was quite interesting in the way it was cooked and presented. I chose the lamb terracotta, that are spiced lamb kebab, charred onion, roasted tomato, roasted pepper, sumac, oregano, tahini and pistachio, baked in a bread dome. When they cut the bread dome, a sublime smell emanated from the dish and the first bite was even better: the lamb was so good, moist and fantastic when each bite was mixed with the various ingredients there, or with the bread that was deliciously crispy (only the top could be eaten as the bread on the side was purposely undercooked).
Jodi went for the halibut, poached in chraime, a sauce made with tomatoes and peppers. It was served with Israeli couscous. Another great dish with a fish perfectly cooked.
The last dish was the roasted cauliflower, served with labaneh, a thick and creamy yogurt. Simple and delicious, each of the three different cauliflowers having a distinct taste.
Last was dessert and we ended up on a high note. We definitely wanted to try their kanafeh, this crispy shredded phyllo dough with ricotta cheese that is fried and smothered in a sweet rosewater syrup and topped with pistachios and vanilla ice cream.
The second dessert was the turkish sundae made with shredded halva, homemade vanilla gelato, crisped rice and caramelized nuts.
Both desserts were succulent and I could not even decide which one was better, although I loved the Turkish sundae because of the shredded halva (I love halva) that was like Turkish cotton candy. If you cannot decide between two desserts, then get both!
We left full and amazed by the delicious food at Bustan. The menu there is fantastic as it showcases incredible flavors, some of them reminding me my childhood, with dishes not so classic and elevated. I definitely recommend Bustan: it is worth the visit!
Enjoy (I did)!
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