In my newest series, "The Best Menu Items At...," I cut the fluff and get straight down to business: Which food/drink items are so stand-out that I'd order them time and time again?
Restaurant: Gazala's Place
- Cuisine: Druse (Middle Eastern)
- Location: 709 9th Avenue - Manhattan
- Pricing: $$
- Reservations? Yes, click here
- Why go? BYOB / Authentic / Delicious and affordable
There's no liquor license and the dining room definitely leans toward the "intimate size" of the stereotypically small NYC real estate spectrum, but you don't go to Gazala's Place for the atmosphere or the craft cocktails. Rather, you come here for the incredibly delicious, authentic Druse cuisine, which could best be described as Middle Eastern, save for a few differences. Here's a great example from the NY Times (upon their visit to the restaurant): "The differences are in the details, like that Druse pita — called sagg pita, after the griddle it is cooked on — which Mrs. Halabi makes daily. It’s thinner than a crepe, as wide as a small pizza and pliable like lavash. A sprinkle of cornmeal gives it texture, but it is mildly flavored: an accompaniment, not an event in itself."
The best menu items:
You can't go to Gazala's without ordering one of the handmade bourekas, a savory puff-pastry that, from a distance, looks dangerously identical to a New York bagel (golden brown exterior with a dusting of sesame seeds). The delicate dough is made with olive oil, which results in layer after layer of an incredibly buttery, moist, and delectably-rich finished product. Prior to baking, the pastry is stuffed with goat cheese and your choice of either sun-dried tomatoes or steamed spinach.
Each boureka arrives with a steak knife stabbed in its heart (It's not easy cutting through all of those layers!) and is accompanied by hummus and a dish of cabbage slaw.
Mix/match appetizer sampler (four items):
I love the option of being able to mix/match four items on an appetizer platter, as I find that it's a great excuse to be able sample smaller portions of dips and bites that I'd never before experienced/at Gazala's Place. Most of the time, however, I always end up ordering my four tried-and-true favorites: Hummus, labne, baba ghanoush, and falafel. Each platter arrives with a basket filled with freshly-baked Druse pita.
You cannot go wrong with any of the Druse/Middle Eastern desserts on the menu. The "Osh al Saraia" - a marriage of cream, honey, orange blossom and rose waters that's reduced to a pudding-like consistency and finished with ground pistachios - is particularly delicious and my personal favorite.
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle