When I had fried halloumi (cheese)for the first time at Michael Solmonov’s Israeli restaurant, Zahav, for the first time, I prayed for the day I’d eat it again. It took a few years, but nicer Mediterranean restaurants with the Mezze plates are finally popping up more around the U.S. During my last visit to NYC, I checked out the new spot Shuka which was reconcepted from the old Hundred Acres space into a fresh, Mediterranean menu. The space is somehow even more inviting with a bright blue exterior, fresh white tiled bar, printed blue and white rugs that look like they came straight from a brand new boutique. The menu is split up into the exact way I like to order: tons of vegetable plates (mezze) and dips all under $10 so you can really order one per person and not worry about your bill. There are kebabs to transport you back to your travels and some hefty plates like a Chicken Schnitzel and Vegetable Paella to dig into if you are looking for a larger meal.
My advice is to go all out on the Mezze section. Get them all! My favorite were the Shredded Spicy Carrots with Turmeric and Ginger and the Fried Halloumi which were so giant I actually though they were the Za’atar fries. I also loved the Baba Ghanoush under the dip section. This is also a great place to go when you have a lot of people with dietary issues such as vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free, etc. Everyone wins and no one ends up overpaying.
I LOVED the Whole Porgy. The only other place I’ve had it is at Santina up the street and it is always creamy and flavorful. It’s served in a large serving platter with marinated cherry tomatoes, shaved fennel, basil, and zhoug. However, the group’s favorite was the never ending pan of Vegetable Paella topped with Eggplant, Zucchini, Peppers, Romano Beans, Charred Leeks, and Tarragon.
The vibe on a Friday night is perfect for a date, girl’s night out, pre-game before hitting the town, or just the kind of spot where you want to feel like you are going out but know you are hitting the sheets after that long week of work. It’s one of the best spaces for big groups and you can always get a reservation the week before. Also, don’t forget to order the pitchers of wine. Ah! I love this place, and the Toasted Sesame Ice Cream Sundae Bowl really put us over the top at the end. I wish there was maybe a scoop of vanilla to break it up, but those Medjoul Dates, y’all! Give me a side of those to go please.