If you haven’t been to Bustan yet on the Upper West Side then you are truly missing out on a great restaurant. Bustan opened last February, lead by proprietor Tuvia Feldman and Executive Chef Paulo Cortes, but it was my first time visiting with my girlfriend last weekend. I’m a fan of Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, especially from Morocco where I served as a Peace Corps volunteer years ago.
We started out by whetting our appetites with a couple cocktails. My choice, the Bourbon Fizz (bourbon, apple, and cinnamon), was perfect. Strong and not too sweet, it went down quite smoothly. My better looking half decided on the Lavender Martini (gin, lavender, and lillet). I’m not a martini kinda-guy, but she enjoyed it.
One of the things that Bustan is known for is their one-of-a-kind-in-Manhattan wood-fired 360-degree rotating brick taboon – a special Middle-Eastern oven. Our friendly server Troy told us that the traditional way to begin a meal at Bustan is with their taboon-baked foccacia, which comes complimentary with every meal. The foccacia was outstanding!
To accompany it we ordered the Taboon Charred Octopus (warm white bean masabaha spiced crushed tomatoes, labane, frisée and sumac pickled onion salad and cilantro oil) and Sizzling Shrimp (evoo, garlic, parsley, espelette pepper, grape tomatoes and lemon juice).
I’ve never met an octopus I didn’t like, but this one was simply sensational. The texture and sauce of this magnificent creature was absolutely delicious. The shrimp was damn good too.
For our main course, Troy recommended the Lamb Terracotta, which is one of their signature dishes. We decided on that and the Taboon whole baked Branzino. Both were wonderful, but the Lamb Terracotta stole the show. I’ve had my share of kebab from my travels around the Middle East, and this was up there with some of the best I’ve ever had. Spiced ground lamb kebab with charred onion, taboon roasted tomato, sumac roasted peppers, oregano, tahini and pine nuts baked in a flaky bread dome, it’s difficult to describe how good it really was. You’ll just have to go try it for yourself.
Another show-stopper was our side order of Crispy Kale Sprouts with feta cheese. You’ve never had kale like this before, trust me. Like potato chips but so much better for you and tastier too, I could eat these all day long.
We finished off our meal with another set of fine cocktails, the Blood Orange Pop (rum, blood orange, and basil) and the Fig Lemonade (homemade fig infused vodka, St. Germain, and ginger beer). The Fig Lemonade, my favorite drink of the evening, is similar to a Moscow Mule.
No meal is truly finished without a dessert, so we ended with a Rose Water Panna cotta (early grey caramel and coconut with peanuts) and a traditional Levantine Kanafeh (shredded phyllo dough, ricotta, rose-water syrup, pistachios and honey-lavender gelato).
We really enjoyed Bustan. The food was delicious, the staff was friendly (especially our excellent server Troy!) and knowledgeable, and the ambiance warm and comfortable. We think you’ll like it too!
– Michael Riegelman
487 Amsterdam Avenue
btw. West 83rd & 84th Streets
NYC, NY 10024