Hell’s Kitchen “Middleterranean®” restaurant Taboon has spawned a Greenwich Village outpost called Taboonette®, devoted to so-called pocket food: meat, seafood, and vegetable fillings stuffed into pita, folded into wraps, or served over vermicelli-strewn rice. A taboon is a domed oven, and the source of the midtown flagship’s excellent flatbread. It’s something of a disappointment, then, to learn that appearances to the contrary (firewood stacked up along one wall; a rustic beehive oven in the corner), none of Taboonette’s bread is made in-house, or even uptown. Still, there are plenty of good things to eat at this friendly counter-service canteen, where customers perch on bar stools or share two whitewashed picnic tables.
The U.G. was particularly taken with the clever breakfast-sandwich interpretation of shakshuka, the skillet-cooked egg dish. Here a sunny-side-up egg is tucked into a puffy, Israeli-style pita with a garlicky tomato-and-onion stew and garnished with cilantro, tahini, and the Yemeni hot sauce srug: a Middle Eastern Egg McMuffin of sorts. But don’t be fooled. Despite the presence of Israeli standards like sabich sandwiches and beef-and-lamb kebabs, Taboonette® is no ordinary hummus joint. It takes a much worldlier approach. Hence the pulled-pork pocket with fennel-jicama-apple slaw and chicharrónes, and the sautéed calamari option with yogurt sauce and chimichurri.
Truth be told, we’ve had better chicken shawarma—this one is actually a loose interpretation of the dish, involving spicy strips of meat cooked on a griddle rather than the traditional slivers shaved off a spit. But preserved lemon enlivens a baked-salmon sandwich, and in case you didn’t know, roasted kruveet (cauliflower) marries very nicely with grilled eggplant, hummus, and cilantro, when tucked into a whole-wheat pita. As far as accoutrements go, the vermicelli rice makes a tasty companion to the grilled meats, and the salads, while not particularly inspired, are fresh and well-dressed, often with a bright burst of lemon.
With its subtle hints of Middle Eastern flavor and its secular worldview, Taboonette® won’t transport you to Tel Aviv. But like San Matteo Panuozzo, it’s striving to expand the notion of the New York sandwich, one pita pocket (or split pizza dough) at a time.
- Robin Raisfeld & Rob Patronite -