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773 Tenth Ave.

The Eastern Mediterranean—or Middleterranean—has come into its own in New York’s culinary scene, and one of the best experiences is Taboon, the Arabic word for “oven,” which is the first thing you see upon entering. Everything is cooked in the taboon, giving the air a “woodsy” perfume. Taboon is friendly and fun, and fills up fast with guests dining at tables as well as the bar. Haim Cohen, an Israeli celebrity chef (and related to the owners), counsels on the menu, which is beautifully executed here by Chef Jose Aguilar.

The puffy Taboon Baked Bread, halfway between focaccia and pizza, is brushed with olive oil and finished with rosemary, sage, and salt. Have it with some hummus, which includes a subtle jolt of jalapeño. An outstanding meze is the (very gently) Sautéed Calamari with sage and garlic served on a bed of shaved fennel and yogurt—so tender and so not Italian. It’s a lovely new taste experience. Sautéed cubes of goat milk halumi are the basis for a fresh, crisp salad with Israeli cucumbers (fewer seeds, more flavor), tomato, red onion, green pepper, fennel, kalamata olives, and oregano, dressed simply in lemon juice, olive oil, and a bit of salt. Grilled kebabs of ground lamb mixed with seasonings look like quenelle-shaped hamburger patties and are served over roasted eggplant with tahini, and fresh tomato, mint, and cilantro salad.  

A knockout dessert is Silan: vanilla ice cream layered with puffed rice and date honey sprinkled with caramelized pistachios and shredded halva. Enjoy this with the house tea, brewed from sage, mint, and lemon verbena, and served in Moroccan tea cups. Dinner daily; brunch Sunday. -- Marian Betancourt

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