Sunday, February 1, 2015

Au Yeah

The East Village gets a bit of Beirut at Au Za'atar


If all you know about Middle Eastern food is dry gyros dripping with white sauce and tubs of Whole Foods hummus, please sit down. We need to have a chat.

Better yet, sit down at Au Za'atar, a new Lebanese joint with a hint of French influence. 

Sure, they're serving up the usual bistro suspects: steak frites, moules marinière, and frisée aux lardons. But don't stop there. Instead, head right to the meze menu, and don't go safe there, either.

Falafel and babaganoush are fine and well, but you'll want the hummus bi lahmeh, which is topped with crispy bits of lamb and fried pine nuts, along with the finger-sized and heavily-spiced sausage known as makanek.

You'll also find the titular za'atar — a ubiquitous Middle Eastern blend of sesame seeds and herbs — glued to fresh pita with a slick of fruity olive oil. Sop up everything soppable with it.
Then there's meat-stuffed kebbe kras and spinach-filled fatayir dumplings — no-brainers if you're Lebanese. Same with the kibbe naya, a chopped lamb dish served raw and best consumed with several glasses of admittedly not-very-Lebanese sangria.
Then again, what isn't?

Photo: Frank Linkoff

Au Za'atar
188 Avenue A (E. 12th St.), East Village
(212) 254-5660

Price: 2 (out of 4)
Noise: 3 (out of 4)

Subway: L to 1st Ave.
Scene: Lebanese families and couples sharing date-night hummus.
Best bets: Kebbe kras; makanek; fatayir
Nearby: PDT; Blind Barber; Otto's Shrunken Head

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