Tag Archives: mezze

Naya’s: A Piece of Lebanon in New York City

Lebanese is the one cuisine I can never tire of! Even after my holidays in Lebanon in which every family visit is accompanied by a plentiful feast, I come back craving the food. Having been spoiled with the best Lebanese food, my family and I have always struggled to find an authentic and delicious Lebanese restaurant in New York city. That is until we found Naya’s in midtown.

In celebration, I brought my friends for a well-prepared feast on Easter. Traditionally, the standard Lebanese meal at a restaurant is all about sharing. It begins with the mezze, which are small sharing platters. My family, one who loves food, usually overdoes this course and is even too full to move onto the hot dishes. Nonetheless, the meal is finished off with a platter of grilled meat and vegetables and rice with vermicelli.

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Common mezze include hummus, taboule, babaghanoush, spinach pies, fatoush (salad with pomegranate syrup and sumac), falafel, kibbe (meat and cracked wheat stuffed with spiced ground meat), sambousac (fried pastry filled with spiced ground meet), grilled haloumi cheese, among many other dishes. The variety is so expansive that a different combination of dishes can always be ordered.

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I have found it nearly impossible to not leave a meal like this full beyond belief. However, the food itself is actually quite light. Butter and cream are rarely used. Each dish usually contains a large amount of olive oil, garlic, and lemon. For the most part, dishes are prepared through grilling, baking, or sautéing. There is an abundance of vegetables, whole grains, and fruits in every meal. Fish and poultry are more often used than red meat, which when used is most commonly lamb.

Naya’s menu offers a broad representation of Lebanese cuisine. They are true to the original flavors and preparation. With the plentiful choices, there is sure to be a dish for everyone to love. Go to Naya and allow yourself the opportunity to become acquainted with the mastery of a Lebanese kitchen.

 

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Greek Food: Does it Count?

Think Ancient Greece, and immediately you think, the center of Western Civilization. But for centuries the Greeks were under Ottoman Turkish rule, leaving them with a culinary tradition that is very similar to that of Turkey and the Levant, using many of the same essential ingredients of the eastern Mediterranean like olive oil, yoghurt, eggplants, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

I had been wanting to have some Greek food for a while, and I wanted to find a Middle Eastern restaurant close to Columbia that wasn’t Falafel on Broadway or Amir’s. One restaurant that had great reviews was Kefi on 85th and Columbus, so I decided to try it out.

I went with a friend who is a fan of Greek food, and we went all out; we ordered a mezze platter for two and a Greek salad to start, then he ordered souvlaki and I had a roast chicken with lemon, garlic, and potatoes, and we ended with a traditional walnut cake.

Pork Souvlaki with rice and Greek salad
Pork Souvlaki with rice and Greek salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a lot of food, but there was no regret. The mezze platter consisted of yoghurt, chickpeas, eggplant, and “caviar” dips. The first three were very familiar to me. They were basically labneh, hummus, baba ghanoush, and they were great in this platter. The last one was something I had never had before as a mezze. It was fish roe, and I did not find it to be very great. That was because it was not very flavorful, and I was probably a little bit shocked that fish roe would be on a mezze platter. The Greek salad that we had was not as good as others I’ve had. It was missing the briney olives and salty feta that I love in a Greek salad.

Next came the main dishes. My friend found his pork souvlaki to be very succulent, and the rice that came with it well seasoned with lemon juice and parsley, giving it freshness. The roast chicken was delicious: the chicken itself was juicy, flavorful, and had a very crispy skin – my favorite part of roast chicken. It was paired with a delightful, creamy lemon and garlic sauce smothering perfectly roasted, melt-in-your-mouth potatoes.

Roast chicken with lemon, garlic, and potatoes
Roast chicken with lemon, garlic, and potatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we had a moist, mildly sweet walnut cake topped with sugar and with walnut ice cream on the side. If there is one reason why you should go to Kefi, it’s for the walnut ice cream. It was fantastic.

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The mediocre salad and strange fish roe mezze aside, Kefi was a great experience for me and my friend. It has made it into our list of go-to Middle Eastern restaurants around Columbia. I hope you give it a try!

Oh, and, Happy Restaurant Week! May your restaurant holiday season be filled with good company and great food.