Posts Tagged With: Taboon

Date Night:  5 Unconventional Pre-theater Picks

danji-big-korean-breakfastLove is in the air on EWZ, and inside the latest KTCHLST, the mini zine inside the big zine (you see what I did there, Hebrew speakers?).  The big zine is W42st, Hells Kitchen’s own magazine.  And if you cant find it, you are either not looking hard enough or not deep enough (Like I said, love is in the air).  This month on KTCHLST, I list 5 Unconventional pre-theater Picks.  Well, just about all my HK picks are pretty unconventional, but these 5 have a certain Je ne sais quoi.  Ok, one of them has dildos on display, so I can explain that one.  Description are kept short in order to fit inside mini zine

Chaan Teng – Nothing quite like this 9th Ave newcomer offering American Chinese with a twist. If the General Tso and dumplings won’t get you in the mood, the elevated Kama Sutra decor will.

Danji – Semi celebrity chef Hooni Kim dishing out all sorts of Korean awesomeness in this quirky hole. Try the Tofu, wings and the rest, quickly before we have drop the “Semi” part.

Taboon – Ever since the old chef came back, Taboon has been hot hot hot, just like its legendary Taboon (oven). Rumor has it, the Silan dessert can fight impotence.

Mentoku Ramen – A sexier, quiet alternative to the craziness of the more popular area Ramen. Enjoy the fried chicken and Yuzu Ramen with the soothing jazz in the background

Mercato – A solid Italian on the “wrong” side of 42nd with an all Italian staff (extra brownie points). Chef Manu introduces Sardinian, Sicilian and other southern specialties unique to Hell’s Kitchen

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Five Pre-Theater Restaurants to Target

Taboon inside

Taboon

The other day I was checking out a restaurant in the theater district for a friend and the very first line of the first Yelp review made me almost spit out the Shawarma I was eating.  “Theater District is well known for its dining”.  What? Where? Boise?  If you say it out loud to someone in the subway you will get crazy stink eye stares from the locals.  The pre-theater bunch on 46th street and around has plenty of decent options like Carmen’s, Becco, Basso56 and its not necessarily a bad idea to dress up and go to one of those.  Most likely the average place is an upgrade over Boise.  But considering the level of cooking you find everywhere else in NYC, the truth is that Theater District dining is close to the bottom of the pack.

But the point of this post is not to slam Theater District dining, though I do get some pleasure from it it seems.  The point is to make it easier for the Hell’s Kitchen’s guide followers to pick a solid, affordable but somewhat unconventional place to eat before or after your show.  The HK guide is one big mishmash of mostly cheap ethnic eats, not really suitable for pre-theater unless thats what you are after.  So to make it easier for the readers I’ve flushed out five places out of the guide where you can have an exceptional meal.  All these places are not in the district but close enough (5-10 minute extra walk on average depending on the size of your heels).  Or you can just take a 5 minute taxi ride that will add $5 to your $500 evening.  I think you can afford it

Taboon (Middle Eastern)

In that spot (10th/53rd) you gotta be good to succeed.  Nothing but data centers, a liquor store, a deli and appartment buildings surround you.  Taboon utilizes its good looking “Taboon” oven to create the type of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes that will make your kids put down their phones and tell you about their day.  Yes, that powerful.  One of the top chefs in Israel help create the menu for Taboon initially.  Try any of their bread specialties, the chicken with the Israeli couscous (big and bubbly just like I like em), and the sick Silan, one of my favorites desserts in the city.

Taboon

Danji (Korean)

An instant winner with the Michelin man, this Hooni Kim’s Korean inspired tapas joint dishes out greatness in consistent fashion.  When you sit next to your new friend at the Broadway show who will boast about her Filet Mignon at Joe Allen, astonish her with the Tofu with Ginger Scallion Soy Vinaigrette, and the fiery Korean Chicken Wings, Bulgogi Beef Sliders and the Pork BibimBop you just attacked at Danji.  And after you explain to her what a Bibimbop is, perhaps its also a good time to tell her that there’s also a Joe Allen in Miami Beach where she lives and/or she can get a decent filet mignon in Boise

Danji

Mercato (Italian)

You have a plethora of Italian joints in the area.  Plenty of mediocre ones with Becco and Carmens one of the better and most popular, especially with families seeking family style dining.  But I have a different spin on “family style”.  Instead of sharing one huge chicken parm and penne alla vodka (Carmens) or order the all you can eat pastas of the day (Becco) why not share four or five different pastas that are much closer to the true south Italy cooking, vs the the south Italy cooking Americans often confuse with.  Pastas like the stupendous but simple Trenette with garlic, almonds, tomato and basil, or the rich gnocchi with finger licking beef and pork ragu, or the pasta of the day like the Cavatelli.  This is true Italian, by Italians, with Italian accents (for those with a Fish Called Wanda syndrome)

Mercato

The Marshal (American)

Sysco, Cargill, Fats R Us, are some examples of names you will see if all the area restaurants would require to print their distributors on the back of their menus.  But at the Marshal you will see the 14 local farms they deal with to produce just about every ingredient on the menu.  This is our answer to Slow Food in Italy.  If something is no longer on the menu it means its not currently grown.  A brilliant sides lineup, along with the best bread and butter in the area, followed by roasted chicken, meatloaf, best mussels this side of Newfoundland, and an amazing ice cream sundae to boot.  American food, in America, cooked by Americans (with a little bit of help by Central Americans!)

The Marshal - Bread

Ippudo (Ramen)

You may not be able to hear each other,  but you will have more fun than 96.5% of all the restaurants in the district.  Between all the shouting of the staff every time someone comes in (“welcome”), leaves (“Thank You”) or goes to the bathroom (“aim well”), and the slurping of the best noodle soup you will ever have, you wont have time to talk to your spouse anyway.  Dont be surprised if you are the only none Asian couple in the room (unless you are not a non Asian couple of course).  The best pork buns in the city (I tried a bunch) and you will be hard pressed to find better Ramen than the splendid Akamaru Modern

Happy Eating!

 

Ippudo

 

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Taboon – Magic Oven

Courtesy of Taboon

Courtesy of Taboon

March 3, 2016 Update:

Taboon is better than ever.  Our first visit since Efi Nahon came back to where it all started resulted in the best Taboon meal ever.  After leaving his marks at Barbounia and more recently at Bustan, Efi is back with a vengeance at the place he helped built back in 2004.  He got a Sicilian type offer he couldnt refuse.  There he was at the kitchen, doing his thing while us and another couple waited patiently for our table.  Best time I ever did!  Since I had the opportunity to talk to the man next to the blazing, beautiful Taboon oven, like two lovers people near a fire place.  Well, I’m sure he didn’t quite take it like that, and I already had a few drinks by then.  Ok, just one.

You can tell just by looking at the menu that its no longer the same old Taboon, even though many of the classics like Chicken Taboon, Hanger  Steak, and Heraime are still on the menu.  One big difference was the number of interesting specials that night.  And sure enough a Crab Shawarma special, featuring Lior Lev Sercarz’s La Boite Shawarma seasoning and artichokes, turned out to be one of the highlights of the evening. Other early winners were the cauliflower and a shrimp filled, harissa and paprika spiced “Red Falafel”.  The Lamb Kebab pot pie Terra Cotta was like going back to Haj Kahil in Jaffa.  A classic you don’t normally see here.  If there’s one criticism now that I’m no longer standing next to Efi (He’s bigger than me, and more importantly Israeli!) is that the Sambusak (bread stuffed with feta) this evening was saltier than usual, and didn’t pair well with the rest of the apps.  For dessert we had just about the entire lineup, and sure enough, the great Silan, was still the clear winner.  Check out this Z-List winner!

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February 11, 2014:

10th avenue is the new 9th avenue.  Thats what I tell visitors when I bring them to 10th ave in ethnic rich Hell’s Kitchen.  That line either prompts a smile, confusion, or in one particular instance, gas.  Among the various new eateries that popped over the last few years, which includes Peruvian, Thai, Mexican, Italian, farm-to-belly (yes The Marshall, I see you), Korean Chicken Wings, “Middle-terranean” Taboon stands as the grand ol’ daddy in this rejuvenated, gentrified, stretch of Hell’s Kitchen.  You could not open a place like Taboon 18 years earlier (Taboon opened in 2004) in that neighborhood without having a Shepherd’s Pie in the menu, or other classics from the Irish mob cookbook.
I was given a task by a group of hard to please New Jerseyans to pick a nice Israeli place in the city for a group dinner, and I immediately thought of Taboon and Balaboosta for a slightly cheaper fare.  Balaboosta’s somewhat limited group menu, and my two year absence from Taboon made the choice clearer.  A coin flip! Ok, not really.  The choice was clear and needless to say the South Jerseyans who miraculously arrived on time after carefully planning a route via Chris Christie supported towns, seamed pleased with the end results.

Courtesy of Taboon

Courtesy of Taboon

Taboon means oven in Arabic, and your host for the evening is the domed wood burning, brick oven which greets you as soon as you arrive.  This is the stuff that dreams are made off.  And pizza!  And once seated it didnt take long to get a taste of the that oven.  Focaccia that would make Italian gourmands proud.  Perfect depth, golden crispy exterior, brushed with just enough olive oil, with a touch of rosemary and salt.  But the bread doesnt just stop there.  A splendid Sambusak stuffed with feta cheese, jalapeño and onion follows.Taboon Foccacia Taboon mezzes

Along with the bread, came an army of mezzes.  Well, an army for NYC standards at least.  In any Arab restaurant in Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem this would be called “Closed till further notice”.  An acceptable Hummus, tzaziki, taramosalata (roe spread – the older I get the less I like it), baba ghanoush, green schoog (the older I get the more I like it, but I prefer it like my wine, red), red pepper spread (the older I get the more I like cookies.  Nothing to do with red pepper spread [which was lovely btw] but I thought this is as good as a time to mention it).  The lovely mezze parade then continued with a refreshing avocado salad, and salmon ceviche (I believe it was salmon, it says red snapper on the site).  But the mezze war was won by the fantastic falafel balls with an all too familiar taste (Amba – that mango condiment we enjoyed so much in Israel last year), and the crowd favorite Zucchini cakes with sauteed snow peas, cipollini onions, fresh herbs topped with yogurt/garlic/mint sauceTaboon Zucchini Cake Taboon ceviche

As for main, I enjoyed my perfectly cooked Hanger with potatos, Brussels sprouts, and garlic.  But I quickly realized that I had this steak here twice before, and a quick look to my right gave me some serious and extremely rare chicken envy.  Yes, the first time New Jerseyan ordered better than me.  The mighty fine looking Chicken Taboon was featuring my true love, Israeli couscous.

A note about Israeli couscous.  Israeli  couscous is not like the couscous you know and love and really only called Israeli couscous in America.  In Israel, its called “Ptitim”, and its essentially tiny oven toasted “Pasta balls” invented when Israel’s first prime minister asked Osem to develop a rice substitute.  For a while it was nicknamed Ben-Gurion’s rice.

Taboon steakBack to the mains.  Two fish dishes that have been on the menu for as long as I remember are particularly popular.  The whole baked Branzino, and the Heraime –  wild striped bass, baked in the taboon oven in a ragout of roasted pepper, tomato, cilantro, mild Moroccan spices, artichokes and hot paprika oil served with regular couscous (booo, but I get it).  If you like meaty white fish with red sauce, get this.  Did I mention that a top Israeli chef who happened to be owner Ayala’s uncle (I think) was brought in to help generate the menu?

Normally in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean I find my refuge in all the apps/mezzes, and the desserts, and any greatness in the middle is a bonus.  Bonus!  The desserts here are just fantastic.  The Silan in particular is a thing of beauty – Vanilla ice cream with puffed rice and date honey sprinkled with caramelized pistachios and topped with shredded halva,  I’ve had this on every single visit.  The Lava Cake however was this crowd’s fave, and the Knaffe capped another great meal at Taboon.

Taboon
773 10th Ave, 52nd Street
$$$
Recommended Dishes:  Focaccia, Sambusak, Cauliflower, Terra Cotta Lamb, Falafel, Zucchini cakes, Chicken, Heraime, Silan, Lava Cake

 

Taboon Taboon chicken Taboon lamb Taboon lava cake Taboon Silan Taboon inside

 

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