By Denise Mattia
The maître d’ at Bustan on Amsterdam bet 83 and 84 on Saturday night rushed my associate and me to our seats, informing us there was a party coming in at 8:30. Still, the time was 6:30, the room is large although narrow and there were seats available.
We weren’t served the Mediterranean classic bread and oil to begin. I ordered a glass of Sancerre ($14). The restaurant was out of the less expensive wines. While my associate and I discussed the menu, a group of three was shown to the bank of seats next to us, where upon one woman knocked my wine into my associate’s lap and jacket. The fault wasn’t hers; the maître d’ should have seated the group from the other side of the bank.
Several napkins later, we ordered dinner. Middle Eastern food has arrived at the UWS. I had the roasted free-range chicken ($25) with saffron, cinnamon & almond couscous and taboon roasted butternut squash. The broccoli rabe was tough, but the chicken and foie gras sausage au jus, which had a hint of je-ne-sais-quoi spice and were delicious.
My associate had the Lamb Terracotta ($29), a spiced ground lamb kebab, charred onion, taboon roasted tomato, sumac roasted peppers, oregano, tahini & pine nuts baked in a flaky bread dome. With so many ingredients the dish was flavorful, while the flat bread was dry and tasteless. Taboon (a brick oven wood-fired grill) is an “in” thing in New York and Israeli-born chef, Efi Nahon uses it on many ingredients on the menu. Dishes include taboon charred octopus (I’d enjoyed that unadorned at Olio e Piu on Greenwich Street and its sister café, Dominique Bistro on Christopher) and taboon whole baked branzino ($33).
The shredded halvah over sorbet and nuts ($10) is the best dessert in the house.
The party of eight arrived and were seated. A couple arrived without reservations and didn’t have to wait for a table. We wondered what the rush was all about.
About Denise Mattia
A writer and photographer, Denise Mattia’s works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art , culture, resorts, spas, food and wine and sports’ activities. She's the founder of the soon to be launched Yum-Yum-Traveler, a site devoted to reviewing restaurants in addition to her travel articles from around the world. She lives and works in Manhattan, where she was born.