We talk to strangers more than the average person might, potentially because everyone in this city has a lot to say about food (or because we’re so delightful). For years, we’ve asked about and been asked for great Middle Eastern restaurant recommendations, and New Yorkers keep telling us we’re looking in the wrong city. Maybe we’re better off just driving to New Jersey. We’ve heard that before, too.
If you’ve found yourself wondering where to eat fantastic kibbe or musakhan, plan a meal at Tanoreen. This restaurant makes some of NYC’s best food from the Levant, and it’s a great choice for a laidback group meal, whether or not you live near Bay Ridge.
Run by a Palestinian-American mother-daughter duo, Tanoreen serves a range of dishes from Palestine, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Start with some extra-lemony baba ghanoush, then be sure to prioritize the Palestinian dishes. Anyone who eats meat should try the fetti with sumac-spiced lamb or chicken, a huge portion of short grain rice and inch-long cuts of vermicelli noodles topped with tahini-yogurt sauce, crunchy almond slivers, and fried pita chips. And don’t leave Tanoreen without an order of knafeh for dessert, which takes 20 minutes to bake in the oven. Gooey in the center, with crispy kataifi on top, this brick of sweet cheese is worth every single second of the wait.
Everything at Tanoreen works best for sharing, which makes this place an especially good choice for a night out with a bunch of friends or some family members who still force you to plan dinners for them. Even when the dining room is full, the energy always feels relaxed and family-friendly, like somewhere you’d find in a small town (maybe Nazareth, where both Jesus and the chef grew up). The next time someone tells you to drive to New Jersey for great Levantine food, send them here.
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You know those videos online in whcih people give their babies lemons to see them react to the sourness? You could do the same thing with Tanoreen’s baba. It’s tart and bright, and itcmakes for a great accompaniment to sauce-less dishes like kibbe and mushakan.
You can’t find this Palestinian dish at that many restaurants around New York City (both Al Badawi and Ayat serve mushakan though, in case you’re looking). That’s a sad fact, considering we’d like to eat fluffy taboon topped with roast chicken and caramelized onions for breakfast as often as possible. Tanoreen shreds their chicken instead of leaving the drumsticks and thighs intact, which means you get an evenly dispersed dose of warming spices in every bite.
These oblong balls get most of their texture from bulgur wheat and walnuts, but there’s also ground lamb and onion inside. This is a good thing to split with the table, especially if there's baba ganoush or tabouleh present.
Not unlike ogres and onions, this entree has layers. A soft pilaf mixture of short grain rice and vermicelli is topped with shredded, sumac-spiced meat and a creamy tahini yogurt sauce. But the crunchy contrast from the almond slivers and fried pita chips are the elements that really make this dish worth ordering. We like it with lamb, but they make a version with chicken too.
Your friends probably are going to request this. If you’ve got a big crew with you, it’s a perfect order to feed a lot of people.
How is it that the nabulsi cheese on the inside of this not-too-sweet dessert doesn’t melt into a puddle? Should I be eating more things that possess the texture of a woven basket? Why do I consume any other dessert aside from knafeh? These are some of the questions you’ll ask yourself during your time with Tanoreen’s superstar dessert, a block of baked nabulsi with a top layer of syrup-soaked kataifi and some pistachios hanging out. If you’re the kind of person who keeps Lactaid at home in case of a special occasion, we can’t really think of a better time to bust it out than this.