The world of Middle Eastern food in New York City continues to evolve beyond the typical falafel or kebab joint. The latest addition is Nur, an upscale Middle Eastern restaurant in Flatiron that’s helmed by famous Israeli chef Meir Adoni. From the moment you walk into Nur, you can sense a palpable energy about the place. Maybe it’s the music, maybe it’s the excitement from the other diners rubbing off onto you, but you can’t help but think that you’re into something good.
A lot of that energy stems from the fact that the menu reads like a discovery. So many of the dishes I had come across for the first time, like the damascus qatayef, a crispy, fried pancake stuffed with spiced lamb meat, or the turkish delight on hudson, which sounds like a chapter from the Chronicles of Narnia. And the discoveries always turn out to be fortuitous rather than disappointing, starting with the bread. Excellence is guaranteed given that Gadi Peleg of Breads Bakery, home to some of the best babka in town, is a co-owner of Nur. People will always warn you to not fill up on bread at the start of the meal, but when you’re eating a kubaneh this good, it’s impossible not too. Warm, buttery, interlocking braids of brioche-like loaf give way to a fleshy, fluffy interior that can be paired with two sauces that arrive alongside it, grated tomato and a spicy green mixture called yemenite schug.
The kubaneh is a hard act to follow, but the stunning starter of date doughnuts manages to upstage it. If you’ve experienced the joy of eating an especially exquisite crab cake or a cod fritter, then you know what to expect when biting into one of these delicious nuggets. I was a little intimidated by the sound of the damascus qatayef starter, but the flavors are as familiar as a fried street food snack’s like an emapanada or a jin bing. It is a little bit on the rich side, but the side of cucumbers and the marcona almonds, along with the yogurt chaser, help to cut the fat.
The hits keep coming with the arrival of the entree, which in this case is the casablanca chraime, a newly discovered gem in the seafood stew canon. The thick and spicy tomato based broth is one that prompts desperate behaviors of spoon scraping and bread sopping so that you get every last bit off the bowl. You should also remember to save a little to drizzle over the side of couscous, which is impossibly light and fluffy. But if not, not to worry, the thick pumpkin tershi sauce is a worthy complement to the couscous.
Dessert is a stretch at this point, but Nur will not leave your sweettooth unfulfilled. A small tray of sweets will arrive at the end of your meal, which you will definitely have room for. Two cookies, a marshmallow and truffles, they look familiar enough, but even these staples will surprise you with an unexpected floral note or two. A meal at Nur will take some twists and turns, but what’s for certain is that it will keep you on your toes.
34 E. 20th St (between Broadway and Park Ave)
New York, NY 10003