New York City has seen its fair share of internationally acclaimed chefs looking to build one or more outposts in the Big Apple. More often than not, ventures where the chef does not do much other than lending his brand end up being unsuccessful. It’s not enough that you create a menu for the restaurant; you have to closely supervise how the kitchen is doing (whether in person or remotely) and make sure that the staff are all on the same page for the singular goal of delivering high-quality dishes to arguably the most difficult to please dining crowds in the world. I have not heard to Meir Adoni’s name before but apparently he has been a star in Tel Aviv for a while known for his modern interpretation of Israeli cuisine by incorporating elements of global flavor and technique. After much preparation, he has finally opened a new restaurant in Manhattan this spring. And boy am I glad that he did, because the recent Sunday dinner my wife Jun and I had at Nur was fantastic.
Any meal at Nur MUST start with one of the breads. I wish Jun and I could’ve sampled all three on the menu, but we were afraid of being over-saturated with carbs and settled on kubaneh, which turned out to a great choice. The warmth of the bread that you can put either Yemenite schug (a type of hot sauce) or grated tomato spread on top was quite soothing, and Jun, who is partial to anything spicy, gladly added a generous portion of schug on her bread. Scallop ceviche panipuri was a fun starter bite to kick off the meal, and the way the scallop popped in my mouth when I bit into the fried shell was quite interesting. One of the best dishes of the night, however, was clearly the smoked eggplant carpaccio. I’m not an eggplant person in general, but the way this fire roasted carpaccio with raw tahini, dates and pistachios sprinkled on top was an absolute beauty, offering a rich complexity of flavor that was very well-balanced and elegant, while the combination of smooth eggplant and crunchy pistachios worked harmoniously together. It was definitely one of the most stunning dishes I’ve had this year.
The entrees were also wonderful in a lot of different ways. The sauce from the Casablanca chraime (a type of seafood stew) had the distinct flavor of a Middle Eastern spice that we weren’t able to pinpoint, but its deep flavor was quite memorable and brought a new dimension to the fish, mussels and other vegetables inside the dish. The baharat spiced lamb loin was cooked more or less perfect medium rare, and the seasoning was balanced to make sure the lamb’s texture shines even more. Add some lentil ragout on the side, and it turned out into one of the better lamb dishes I’ve had in a while. Don’t skip the dessert at Nur. The New Middle East one looked too pretty to carve up, but Jun and I weren’t complaining once we cracked the shell on top and started devouring the delightful combination of citrus compote, yogurt crumble and blood orange sorbet. Again, another stand-out dish that aptly displays the ingenuity behind the kitchen to meld different influences and techniques into a beautiful culinary creation.
Nur, with its high-profile chef and the fondness of New York diners with Israeli cuisine, is one of the hardest tables to secure, so make sure to book in advance. The dining space was cozy and intimate, making it a great place for casual date nights and other special gatherings. There is full bar at Nur, with the wine selection being on the more exotic side from Mediterranean countries not exactly well-known for having the most popular wines. My experience with Middle Eastern, not to mention Israeli, cuisine is still somewhat limited compared to the other regions like Italy and Japan, but if you want to see how a chef can bring the cuisine from the region to the present with a forward-thinking and experimental mind, Nur would be a great introductory course. It is sophisticated yet approachable, and I can’t wait to try other dishes at the restaurant on my next visit.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 34 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (212) 505-3420