Bustan means “garden” or “orchard” in Hebrew, Arabic and ancient Aramaic. The Upper West Side restaurant named as such boasts a pan-Mediterranean menu that features dishes from the shores of Southern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, which are home to those languages. Bustan stands out in New York City’s sea of Mediterranean restaurants with its multicultural approach to food and drink, where diners are encouraged to explore and ask questions about their diverse menu.
My wife and I came in for Sunday brunch at noon and the place was already almost full. But the restaurant is spacious, so you won’t have to throw elbows just to cut your food. You may want to make a reservation, though, because the people who live in this neighborhood obviously know how good the food is at this joint.
We started with a pair of bloody marys that had Mediterranean spiced rims.
We enjoyed these. They had the right amount of heat, and the mix was a nice, thick, tomato blend that they must have made in-house, because it was really fresh.
Since I’m on drinks, I may as well mention that they have a really interesting and unique cocktail menu that further highlights Mediterranean flavors. And the bar is a great place to sit and eat as well. There’s a beautiful wide grey marble topper and plenty of seating. They also have a pretty incredible whisky selection as well.
We snacked on some homemade focaccia bread before our entrees came out. This was spiced with the same stuff from the bloody mary rims, along with some toasted and minced rosemary. Really delicious! And its served warm, with a bowl of olives.
We also tried these burekahs, which are spiraled rolls of doughy pastry style bread with feta and minced kalamata olives inside. Super tasty!
I ordered the green shakshouka for my entree.
Shakshouka is a baked egg dish from the region, often made with tomatoes. This green version featured creamed spinach, artichoke, fior di latte and white truffle oil. It also comes with homemade pita.
I was half expecting something heavy and salty, given the cheese and cream elements, but this was light and mild. I really loved it, and the addition of truffle oil really brought a wonderful earthiness to the dish. All you people looking for a healthy protein boost, this is the way to go! There had to be about four or five eggs in this baby. You get a lot of satisfying food for your money with this dish ($18).
My wife went with the potato pancakes entree. A large white plate is covered with one huge, crispy potato pancake, and then topped with two eggs (cooked any style you’d like) and three rolls of really high quality smoked salmon.
The best way to enjoy this dish is to eat a little bit of everything with each bite, so that the saltiness from the cured salmon seasons the pancake and egg with a its natural brine.
This dish also comes with labaneh, which is a thick, tart, creamy, yogurt-like cheese that almost mimics the cream cheese that us NYC locals might eat with lox or smoked/cured salmon. It is a perfect pairing for this dish.
But one other savory item that’s a must try here is the hummus.
This stuff has won awards. In fact, I might as well mention Bustan’s overall awards for best restaurant in the upper west side (2014) and diner’s choice top 100 neighborhood gems in America (2015). This place is no joke.
Anyway, this hummus is super creamy, and the addition of tahini sesame paste gives it a massive flavor boost. I actually recommend getting this as an app for the table to share before diving into those delicious entrees.
But you absolutely MUST save room for dessert, because this next thing is my favorite ice cream dessert that I’ve ever had.
It’s two scoops of vanilla gelato on a bed of candied pistachio nuts, dates and crisped rice, which is then topped with shaved halvah!
It’s called the Turkish sundae, and I get really excited when I see halvah used in anything, since I always loved eating it as a kid.
Clearly I loved that dessert, but I’ll be back in very soon to try the sticky toffee pudding, which consists of dates, walnuts, banana and tiramisu gelato. In fact several items on their dessert menu are really interesting, as are the entrees. Bustan is truly breaking the mold for Mediterranean fare and offering up lots of dishes that celebrate the entire region’s diverse food culture. Get up here ASAP and eat!
Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review; all opinions expressed are my own.
487 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024