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New York is loved and famed for its experimental cuisine, diversity of flavors and tastes, and its melting pot of culinary heritages – including the food culture of the Middle East. These are the best Middle Eastern restaurants to try in NYC.
Akdeniz aims to offer a tempting starting point to diners who have never before encountered Turkish food, and to please established regulars. For a mid-town restaurant, the food is reasonably priced, with a welcoming, familial environment. Although a comfortable stop for a sit-down meal, it is the catering and delivery service for which Akdeniz is best-loved. This service offers the full range, from tamara (whipped red caviar mixed with olive oil and lemon choice), to baby lamb shish kebabs to marinated salmon skewers. Make sure you save room for dessert, because the almond cake is worth waiting for.
Akdeniz, 19 W 46th St, Manhattan, NY, USA, +1 212 575-2307
Hailing from Turkey, the staff behind the Beyoglu Grill have made their native cuisine into a competitive business model. Offering great lunch deals, this joint is heaving in the midday office cram. Open from breakfast until late, their tempting selection of quasi pudding patisseries are a delectable treat at any time of day. These are perfectly accompanied by an amber-colored Turkish tea. If you have the chance for a more leisurely visit, make sure you sample a selection of starters, sides and desserts as well as the main event. In the former camp, the acili ezme (finely chopped tomatoes and walnuts seasoned with hot chili peppers), and mucver (finely chopped courgette pancake) are deserving choices. Meanwhile the latter camp is crowned by a buttery and gently crystalized baklava.
Pitching themselves as ‘New York’s premier contemporary Lebanese restaurant offering inspired Mediterranean cuisine’, Ilili aspires to fuse authentic Lebanese dishes with modern Mediterranean influences. This culinary and sensory journey has divided reviewers in the past into a love or hate categorization. However, of late Ilili seems to be winning more supporters than enemies. For an alternative Middle Eastern experience, arrive between 4 and 7.30pm on weekdays, for happy hour prices. They offer a great selection of drinks ranging from the poison sumac margarita cocktail (tequila, pomegranate juice, lime and orange liquor) to the ‘from Manhattan to Beirut’ (bourbon, St. Germaine orange blossom water). These are accompanied by delicious dishes such as mini beef dumplings, yogurt and piquant peppers. The price is competitive for the area and it gets busy, so don’t go if you intend on a secluded date night.
If you’ve ever seen Cake Boss, that wonderful display of Italian-meets-American gourmandize and TV gluttony, you may notice that Mamoun’s appears to be setting itself up to attract a similar fan base, albeit not the most culinary aspiring one. With numerous locations across New York, Mamoun’s have built their falafel empire around just that: ground chickpeas and a great marketing team. They offer a popular spread of perhaps less authentic, but crowd-pleasing generic Middle Eastern fare. Their falafel and variants of them, are fantastic. They have clearly perfected their spice blend, because these tasty bites are great on their own, as well as with a range of sides from minty tabbouleh to sticky vine leaves wrapped in rice.
Chef and owner Rawia Bishara is happy to share how her cooking has evolved since opening Tanoreen in 1998. Having been a lavish home and dinner party cook, she decided to take her concoctions to the wider public. A success from the outset, she continues to experiment with the traditional Middle Eastern cooking which she ate and learnt growing up, but with increasing confidence to bend the rules. On the menu, kibbie (a shell of ground lamb, bulgur and spices studded with pine nuts, almonds and onion) nestles alongside fried halloumi served with fresh vegetables and kalamata olives. Make an evening of it by making yourself at home with a Nazareth sunrise cocktail (pear vodka, fresh orange and rose flower). Drink this in the bar gleaming with mosaic lanterns and sumptuous wall tapestries.
This Hebrew name denotes tasty and delicious, and by all counts Taim lives up to its reputation. The team behind this enterprise aim to cook Middle Eastern dishes with love and adherence to traditional methods, but with a modern, gourmet twist. Profiting from the healthy-living New Yorkers in the locale, this destination has made a strictly vegetarian menu their characteristic amid the plethora of multifarious cuisines in West Village. There are dishes to suit any palate. Opt for the harissa balls if you like a slow burn, ‘green’ if you prefer your falafel crammed full of fresh parsley, coriander and mint, or ‘red’ for the warmth of roasted red peppers. The refreshing and exotically spiced smoothies on offer at Taim are also delicious.