Israeli chef Efi Nahon came to New York City 11 years ago to open Taboon, cooking from the domed oven that gives that restaurant its name to turn out Mediterranean fare in Hell’s Kitchen. After almost five years, he moved over to Barbounia, where he helmed the burners for five and a half years, meeting Guy Goldstein along the way. Now, he and Goldstein have teamed up Tuvia Feldman to open Bustan (487 Amsterdam Avenue), a pan-Mediterranean restaurant on the Upper West Side that capitalizes on Nahon’s expertise with the taboon.
“The menu is very similar to what I did before,” says Nahon, which is Mediterranean with Turkish and Spanish influences. “We have a whole section of hummus, which you can top with chicken tandoori, chicken liver, falafel, or many other things.” Those things are cooked in the taboon, which was custom built in the space and can work like a rotisserie, slowly rotating food over heat.
The menu, he says, is comprised of small plates and larger dishes; a highlight of the latter list is the whole fish — Nahon once cooked in the port city of Jaffa in Israel — baked in the oven, the variety of which will change depending on the season. He also points to flatbreads topped with cured tuna or styled like margherita pizzas as do-not-miss items. Other items include a whole heirloom cauliflower with nazareth tahini, pine nuts, and green harissa; a chicken served with chicken foie gras merguez sausage; and lamb kebab with grilled vegetables, tahini, and pistachio baked into a flaky bread terracotta. “This is casual fine dining,” Nahon says.
Goldstein’s background is in wine, and he’s built out a list that focuses on the Mediterranean, showcasing selections from Israel, Lebanon, and Greece. That will complement a tap beer list and a full bar.
The partners have given Bustan a makeover that captures the region that inspires it, with warm colors and some richly appointed details (check out bar stools and plush booths, for instance) over art deco lines. But the highlight of the 74-seat space is the backyard garden, which, says Nahon, will become an “outdoor cafe when the spring comes.”
Bustan is currently open for dinner on Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m., Monday through Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; and Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight. The restaurant will eventually add lunch and brunch hours, too.
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