We'll just come out and say it: we really love hummus. We have no problem with grabbing some pita and calling it dinner. And then there's tahini, the sesame paste that improves pretty much anything it touches. We love that too.
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It's always a gamble trying to adapt a successful overseas to the fickle U.S. market. Occasionally you might strike gold—think: Till Death Do Us Part's metamorphosis into All In The Family. But more often than not, you end up with Chateau Snavely or Payne desperately trying to capture the magic of Fawlty Towers. Having spent a few meals out at Almayass, the successful Middle Eastern chain of Armenian restaurants that has most recently expanded to Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, it feels more like the American version of The Office: a refreshingly unique and strong beginning that gets progressively less exciting.
Lebanese restaurants aren't rare in this city, but they aren't especially common either—a shame for New Yorkers who'd rather pig out on eggplant and yogurt than foie gras and pork belly. Lebanese cuisine is Southern Mediterranean meets Middle Eastern, and can be as conservative or as exotic as you care for. At the newly opened, surprisingly fancy Almayass in the Flatiron, both routes are open to you. Want to stick to pita, hummus, and kebabs? No problem. Curious about quail egg-topped Lebanese salumi, beet root dips, or bulgur-studded tartar? They can make that happen.