Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >
Mar 12, 2014 08:48 AM

EV Lebanese mentioned in NYT

this Au Za'atar place looks promising...interested to hear any reports...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Wow, the menu looks amazing, I'm going to have to go. Thanks for posting.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Pookipichu

      yeah, the pictures of the food look good, and the rustic space looks comfy...i'll report back after i try it...

    2. Thanks for the link. A new sushi place called Butterfish sounds interesting. Interesting menu concept.

      1. This is another blurb about this new spot, yes it looks very interesting, will have to visit:

        1. So got around to trying it.

          The restaurant has a nice ambiance, modern-ish with wood slats.

          Pita was served warm with za'atar spice and laban bi khiar. I would have preferred the pita to be less floppy and a little bit more crisp because it's so flat. If it's soft, I'd rather it be fluffy.

          Babaghanoush was very good at first bite, but became relentlessly smoky and too much of one note. I love smoked eggplant but it was too one dimensional with not enough acid, spice and unsmoked eggplant to balance.

          The couscous royal came with delicious merguez sausages that were very well seasoned, good texture and nice char. The baby lamb chops and grilled chicken were very good as well. The couscous itself was not like couscous I've had before. It was more like a pudding/porridge. Caveat, I do not know if this is a traditional Lebanese style of couscous, but I do prefer the individual grains you find in Moroccan couscous, steamed couscous.

          Service was efficient and all in all it wasn't a bad value. I'm going to try it again in a few months.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Pookipichu

            Thanks for the review...i haven't made it there yet, but was thinking of the place this morning, as i had a Lebanese-style breakfast at home from things i bought at Kalustyans (baba ghanoush, cheese, bread, tabouli, olives)...

            re: couscous, i've never had couscous in a Lebanese restaurant or home (i attended quite a few parties at Lebanese homes outside of Lebanan while growing up as a foreign service brat)...but google tells me that Lebanese couscous is similar to what appears on NYC menus as "Israeli couscous", i.e. larger round pearl-shaped, rather than the tinier Moroccan variety)..


            1. re: Simon

              Those look huge! The grains weren't that big, but I see they are boiled and not steamed. After some googling I saw that Lebanese couscous preparation can result in a consistency like risotto, which describes what I had. If someone likes a porridgey style couscous, it was tasty, although they could have served it a bit hotter.

              1. re: Pookipichu

                Pookipichu, thanks for the report.

                Compared to the chick peas, in the center of the dish, probably not as huge as the photo depicts :)

                I've never had risotto that is "porridgey." Risotto consistency is very similar to Israeli couscous, based on my experience. We make both at home often.

                How does Au Za'atar compare to Bereket (no ambience, cafeteria-ish) foodwise?

                1. re: financialdistrictresident

                  I haven't had Israeli couscous but based on the photo from above, it looks much drier than risotto.

                  I can only compare to Moroccan/French style couscous that I've had previously, which has been served steamed, with a side of broth/stew but not in the actual liquid. The couscous I had at Au Za'atar was in the liquid and was creamy and porridgey.

                  Haven't been to Bereket, but the food is on par with Souk El Shater which is also Lebanese. I haven't tried enough of the menu to give a solid recommendation, I was satisfied with the meal/experience for the price. It's pretty reasonable and has some ambiance. I'm going to let the kitchen and staff find their footing before I go back to reassess.

          2. I stopped by Au Za'atar for brunch yesterday. Their namesake za'atar is a beautiful blend that is plenty tart and slightly salty, a lively palate awakener on a Sunday morning. The bread it was served with, however, was dense and chewy, more akin to a pizza dough than pita. It wasn't bad, but I found it out of place.

            Brunch dishes were fair. The hummus that came with the Au Za'atar breakfast was very creamy but light on the tongue. The falafel was nothing to write home about, but the hot sauce we asked for to accompany our eggs was a blaze of heat, fermentation and spice. I was a big fan. I also ordered off-menu kibbeh nayeh which was pretty good. Served with mint leaves, harissa and toum, the meat was silky and very gently seasoned, maybe a little too subtly. The toum that accompanied the kibbeh was almost flavorless. I might as well have been putting vegannaise on my bread.

            Service left a lot to be desired. The dining room was maybe 20% full, but it seemed like our waitress was busy everywhere except at our table and everything took an absurd amount of time to come out. It took well over 10 minutes to get a tea, even longer to get one order of mimosas and who knows how long to get our mains. I had asked for our kibbeh to be served as a starter, but it was delivered after our mains so we ended up having it as dessert. We finally had to get up from the table and flag someone down to get our check after we grew weary of waiting. Our server was perfectly friendly and accommodating, but something clearly wasn't working between front and back of house.

            I'd go back, but I'm not rushing. I'm not sure what French influences there are on the menu since a quick review shows pretty much all standard Levantine fare on offer.