NYCReview

photo credit: Armondo Rafael

the main dining room at Frena, with wicker chairs, a wine cellar, and large trees in urns
7.8

Frena

Mediterranean

Hell's Kitchen

$$$$Perfect For:Dinner with the ParentsDate NightPre-Theater Eats
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The best part of a meal at Frena in Hell’s Kitchen comes right at the beginning, when their hummus—which has the texture of ice cream that’s been out of the freezer for exactly 23 minutes—arrives at your table alongside a hot slab of bread, fresh from the wood-burning oven. The fluffy bread, all gussied up with olive oil and flakey salt, is too hot to tear. But burned fingers be damned, because dunking this volcanic bread into their tahini-rich hummus is about as necessary an experience as brushing your teeth twice a day. 

The meal never quite hits that high again. The main courses are good, if a bit small for the price, but we’d recommend making a meal of the bread, a few dips, and a couple of smaller plates. Frena is best for covering a glass of Turkish pet nat or Moroccan syrah with olive oil fingerprints, grabbing some apps, and getting out in time to make your 7:30pm curtain. If you’re seated in the area by the kitchen, you’ll get treated to a little pre-theater show yourself, watching the cooks work. Most of the menu passes through a big oven (which was the centerpiece of Frena’s previous life as Taboon), and the light-drenched room is filled with vines that spread over the ceiling.

the exterior of Frena, a green restaurant in Hell's Kitchen

photo credit: Armondo Rafael

a bar with wicker chairs, a tree, and a well-lit back bar

photo credit: Armondo Rafael

a large, brick oven

photo credit: Will Hartman

the exterior of Frena, a green restaurant in Hell's Kitchen
a bar with wicker chairs, a tree, and a well-lit back bar
a large, brick oven

Food Rundown

Frena image

photo credit: Will Hartman

Frena Bread

Anywhere else, this bread would be the hero of its own story. But next to Frena's hummus, it plays the dutiful sidekick. It's hot and dappled with dimples, crunchy salt, and olive oil—get one for every two people at your table.
bowl of hummus with bread being dipped into it

photo credit: Will Hartman

Dips

We don’t need to say more about this hummus—it’s one of the best we’ve ever had. As for the other dips, the labne, spicy feta, and matbucha are priorities. If you’re more than two people, get a dip hamsa, which gets you five choices and one bread.
crab piled high with a tomato sauce on toast

photo credit: Will Hartman

Crab Shawarma Toast

This dish is dense with butter, which can bog down the sweetness and subtlety of the shawarma spices on the crab. It’s not charred like you might expect when you read the word shawarma, but it is a nice dish to share, with the acidic tomato sauce fighting for supremacy against the buttery toast.
grilled octopus with a side of potatoes

photo credit: Will Hartman

Grilled Spanish Octopus

If you need a larger dish, this should be on the list. While the Arabian bravas it's served with lack crunch, the octopus is cooked perfectly.
wagyu beefcheeks stewed with vegetables and little dollops of an orange sauce on top

photo credit: Will Hartman

Wagyu Beefcheek Tagine

A good main, but at this point in the meal, you’ll likely be so full of bread and dips that the thought of fatty wagyu might make you want to melt.
four lamb meatballs baked in a tahini and tomato sauce with flatbread on top

photo credit: Will Hartman

Lamb Terra Cotta

Baked in a terracotta pot with a bit of flatbread, this includes four lamb meatballs baked in a very fresh tomato and tahini sauce. But at $44, it feels a little steep.

FOOD RUNDOWN

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