There are plenty of worthy spots to dine on the Upper West Side. And there’s certainly a populous clientele at the ready. But it seems that every occupant of the neighborhood is eating at one place these days: Bustan. Who isn’t there is the question. Geraldo Rivera holds court in the back. And that was Gael Greene in the sailor cap, scooting out the door. I spy an old college chum sitting with girlfriends a few tables away. Every seat, stretching out to the back garden, is occupied.
The crowds are coming because the chewy, olive oil-slicked flatbread is always fresh out of the taboon oven. And where else in the city can you find a dish like the lamb terra cotta ($26)? It’s a Middle Eastern pot-pie of sorts, a clay dish filled with grilled lamb kebabs made from ground shoulder and leg; charred tomato and onion; raw tahini, pistachio and parsley leaves. A pastry dough caps the dish and the entire assemblage is baked in the taboon. When it emerges, one slice into the crusty dough releases the aromas of oregano, garlic, parsley, meat and spices. One taste transports to the Mediterranean.
Opened in February, Bustan’s menu dips into Morocco, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Italy, France and Spain. The New York Observer’s Joshua David Stein was an early fan, giving the spot a rare five-star rave in his recent review. Consider the word spread well beyond the loyal neighborhooders.
487 Amsterdam Ave.