I absolutely adore sitting in a garden at a New York City restaurant. Unfortunately, most of the city’s restaurants limit this treat to the few months of the year when the weather is actually cooperative. And yet…nestled on the Upper West Side, there’s a delicious little oasis that provides a covered garden to be enjoyed all year round. NYC, meet Bustan.
Bustan takes guests on a culinary journey to the Mediterranean without leaving New York. Head Uptown and pick your pleasure…a seat at the bar, the newly winterized back garden, or the colorful dining room…no matter, the experience of dining at Bustan is one you’ll want to repeat again and again and again.
The menu takes you on a journey around the Mediterranean with influences and inspiration from Israel, French North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia), Greece, and Italy. But I particularly love how the international cuisine has a local focus—with market influences and fresh produce.
The heart and hearth of the restaurant is the custom hand-built wood-fired brick taboon, a Middle Eastern oven that would be traditional except that like everything at Bustan—it has a twist that makes it unique: A rotating base that is a definite game-changer. For example, a whole branzino is fully cooked in a 360-degree turn in the oven—and it emerges moist, infused with fresh herbs on the inside, crisp and smoke-infused on the outside.
Considering the taboon, one of the best ways to begin is with mazettim—a selection of “dips” served with irresistible taboon-baked focaccia: hummus, redolent of that special tahini with a touch of cumin, baba ganoush with the smoky flavor of taboon-roasted eggplant, tzatzkiki, spicy feta, and taramousalata.
Also turned out from the magical taboon, it’s easy to understand why the flatbreads are such a hit. The unique toppings take these pizza-like breads to another level, such as the highlight of my meal, the flatbread with kale, mushroom, ricotta, taleggio and asparagus. YUM.
Meat entrees, of course, also make the most of the taboon: grilled hangar steak with tahini-baked potato and carmelized shallots, Australian lamb chops with roasted cauliflower and spiced crushed fava beans, but there is also an amazing lamb terracotta, baked in a bread crust that keeps the moisture in, the top is peeled back to reveal a deftly spiced ground lamb kebab, charred onion, roasted tomato and peppers, with sumac, oregano, tahini and pine nuts. Fish entrées are turned out perfectly moist and flavorful: grilled Atlantic salmon with sweet potato and zucchini latke, but there are also other not to be missed options such as braised boneless short ribs with parsnip and mushroom barley risotto and homemade ricotta gnocchi with wild mushrooms and sage.
And trust me on this, you absolutely do not want to skip dessert. The Turkish sundae is a smash hit: vanilla gelato topped with crisped rice, caramelized nuts, and shredded halva.
There are many ways to enjoy a meal at Bustan—whether you come for weekend brunch, lunch, cocktails and small bites, or dinner. Each bite is a true Mediterranean (via NYC) delight. I look forward to seeing you in the garden.
Details: BUSTAN is located at 487 Amsterdam Avenue, near W. 84th Street, 212-595-5050. Hours of operation: Mon 11am-3pm, 5pm-10pm; Tues-Fri 11am-3pm, 5pm-11pm; Sat 10am-3pm, 5pm-11pm; and Sun 10am-3pm, 5pm-10pm. Enclosed garden seating available.