When some restaurants open, you get the sense that they’re trying to figure things out. Maybe the servers don’t know the answers to any of your questions, or the menu doesn’t quite feel like it all goes together, or they forget to bring one of your dishes and then try to make up for it by sending you a side of cauliflower you definitely didn’t want.
Nur, a modern Middle Eastern restaurant in Flatiron, is not one of those restaurants. From the start, it knew exactly what it was trying to do: serve exciting Middle Eastern food in an exciting New York City restaurant. Which isn’t a surprise, since the guy behind Nur is one of the best-known chefs in Tel Aviv.
In terms of food, they’ve mostly succeeded. Many dishes are interesting and delicious and just a little bit insane - like the eggplant dip that looks like what would happen if the spiral emoji took acid. As for the restaurant itself? The room is packed and music is blasting - it might be exciting, but it’s not the most pleasant place to eat.
We’ll start with the good: there are some very high highs of a meal at Nur. The highest of which happens when your bread - a laptop-sized sesame bagel, a whole loaf of garlic and honey challah, or a pillowy mound of pull-apart kubaneh - hits the table. Whether you’re with one or four other people, in that moment everything will become a blur of limbs and carbs and dips and when it’s all over, you will be sad.
Luckily, there are other excellent things to eat after the bread: the aforementioned eggplant/acid spiral, “date doughnuts” that are actually smoked trout croquettes, and a pita stuffed with lamb and cheese to make what’s essentially an incredible hot pocket. There’s also the Casablanca Chraime - a pot of rich red fish stew that’s easily the best entree here.
That’s mainly because it’s delicious, but also because you get a lot - whereas Nur’s other entrees are pretty small portions for the money. Which is another thing: even if you don’t order the $37 lamb entree that only comes with two small pieces of meat, a meal here can get expensive quickly.
And while the price point feels special occasion-appropriate, the rest of the details don’t. Nur’s below-ground, low-ceilinged space is like a garden apartment StreetEasy would refer to as “charming” (translation: cramped). They also play the Today’s Top Hits playlist from Spotify, loudly. Desserts like the “Hills of Jerusalem” sound cool, but come out looking like an architecture student’s senior project and tasting less good than the pint of ice cream in your freezer at home.
Nur isn’t a perfect restaurant, and it’s probably not the place to go for a high-stakes occasion. But if you’re in it for the creative Middle Eastern food, and you have some money to get rid of, you won’t be disappointed. Plus, there’s no cauliflower to be found here.
You have three options for breads at Nur, and picking from them will be the toughest decision of your night. If you’re with a group, get at least two. This enormous sesame bagel, with za’atar for sprinkling and a lima bean dip for dipping, should be one of them.
An entire loaf of pillowy challah, covered in garlic and honey, with sides of creme fraiche and pickled onions. A bite with all three is a special thing.
A thin layer of eggplant topped with pistachios, feta, tahini, and dates. Looks like a party on the plate, tastes like a party in your mouth. You’ll want this for dipping your bread into.
These fried bites of date and smoked trout are excellent. Order them.
Basically an incredibly fancy lamb hot pocket, this is one of the best-tasting and most satisfying things at Nur. Unclear why it’s listed as a “small dish” when it’s about twice as filling as the lamb entree - get this if you’re looking for something heftier to add to your order. The fresh vegetables with a tahini sauce on the side are a nice touch.
This involves two pieces of lamb, some sauce, and a stuffed onion on top of lentils. Does it all taste good? Absolutely. Is it worth $37? Definitely not. Go for the horias if you want some lamb in your life.
Same applies to this seared tuna - there is very little of it, and even though it involves lamb pancetta, this isn’t one you’ll remember tomorrow. Feel free to skip.
We would come back to Nur just for this. It’s a super rich, tomato-based fish and mussel stew, with a side of tershi (pumpkin dip) and couscous. Mix all the elements up, and you get something pretty incredible. Not the easiest to split if there are more than two of you, but deal with it.
With a name like that, you feel like you have to order this dessert. Sounds impressive (there’s chocolate, halva, artichokes, pistachios, almonds, and smoked yogurt ice cream involved) and looks impressive - but the flavors don’t really work together, especially the artichoke. Plus, they send out out complimentary cookies and candies at the end of every meal anyway.