Restaurant review

Nur Kitchen on Buford Highway

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Chef and owner Shay Lavi is at the center of things at Nur Kitchen. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Chef and owner Shay Lavi is at the center of things at Nur Kitchen.  (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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Chef and owner Shay Lavi is at the center of things at Nur Kitchen. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

I observed that if you are in Lavi’s Personal Knowledge Orb, you will get lavish treatment and an overflowing cup. If you are an anonymous customer outside the fold, you may be feeling a little disappointed. In researching this review (and to some extent when I stopped to take away shortly after opening), I experienced both sides of the coin.

Full disclosure: I met Lavi when he wrote recipes for an AJC article on cooking vegetables in September. Nonetheless, I managed to squeeze in for a late lunch on Friday and not be recognized. Bad luck on my second pseudonym visit: I got arrested before I could place my order, and that, I believe, made all the difference.

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Nur Kitchen’s mezze platter offers plenty of it while you wait for your main courses. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Nur Kitchen's mezze platter offers plenty of it while you wait for your main courses.  (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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Nur Kitchen’s mezze platter offers plenty of it while you wait for your main courses. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

Our early afternoon mezze platter was fresh and flavorful, although a bit heavy with eggplant. Plates of olives, pickled onions, labneh drizzled with olive oil, baba ghanoush, sour eggplant and a smash made from burnt eggplant skins thrilled us while we waited for the main course. A chopped salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers and parsley, simply dressed in lemon and olive oil – a staple found on tables from Iran to Israel – cheerfully accompanied the succulent spreads. No wow moments here, but nothing to complain about either. My guest sipped her strong Turkish coffee and the conversation continued.

The best thing about our steak plate were the veggies that surrounded strips of still pink but a little chewy rib-eye: a tender cauliflower, a dazzling sweet potato with incredibly darkened skin, a little butternut and a tangle of oyster mushrooms – all perched on top of a bed of delicious, fluffy, divine freekeh. And yet, the second I sniffed our bowl of mussels, I smelled a problem: a pungent odor signaled that these were not the freshest bivalves, although the broth and pita strips crispy to dip were nice touches.

Alas, it wasn’t the Nur that draws the worshiping crowds and Instagram raves. A follow-up dinner turned out to be another story, however.

From starter to dessert, we were seduced. The creamy whipped hummus topped with falafel was almost perfect. The chickpea fritters were very brown on the outside, wonderfully grassy and green in the center. Lavi walked by to tell me it was the only dish he had touched. He also succeeded.

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Mango Aioli Dip is a great reason to get fries with Nur Kitchen’s Chicken Shawarma Platter. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Mango Aioli Dip is a great reason to get fries with Nur Kitchen's Chicken Shawarma Platter.  (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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Mango Aioli Dip is a great reason to get fries with Nur Kitchen’s Chicken Shawarma Platter. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

While the schnitzel – crispy coated chicken cutlets – was good (albeit a bit dry), the chicken shawarma platter was excellent. You can get either of these dishes with hand-cut za’atar fries or rice. A tough choice, but I’ll go for the fries every time, mainly because I can drag them around in the exquisite mango aioli condiment, made with Shay’s own pickled green mango (amba).

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At Nur Kitchen, the charm of the seasonal vegetable platter is not limited to vegetables; the butter sauce is also memorable. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

At Nur Kitchen, the charm of the seasonal vegetable platter is not limited to vegetables;  the butter sauce is also memorable.  (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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At Nur Kitchen, the charm of the seasonal vegetable platter is not limited to vegetables; the butter sauce is also memorable. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

At this point our little two-above is packed, but we have to make way for the mind-boggling veggie plate. What exactly is on this piece de resistance? Cauliflower, grape tomatoes, butternut, sweet potato, mushrooms, perhaps the best Brussels sprouts in season, all swimming in a butter sauce more reminiscent of France than Israel. That’s why I rank Lavi’s vegetables among the best in Atlanta.

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Leave room for a pastry called knafeh. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Leave room for a pastry called knafeh.  (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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Leave room for a pastry called knafeh. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

Turns out his knafeh isn’t bad either. A honey-soaked pastry of thin crispy noodles (kadaif) with mozzarella cheese curd, this Middle Eastern classic is new to the menu and quite a knockout. No matter how crowded our table may be, we can always make room for it.

NUR CUISINE

Food: Mediterranean

A service: alternately ministerial and clumsy (e.g. no lids for take-out plastic containers)

The best dishes: hummus, falafel, chopped salad, mezze plate, chicken shawarma, vegetable plate, fries with mango aioli, knafeh

Vegetarian selections: Many choices

Alcohol: beer and wine

Price range: $$

Credit card: all major credit cards accepted

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11.30am-10pm Friday-Saturday

Children: Yes

Car park: free in bundle

MARTA station: no

Reservations: advised

Wheelchair access: Yes

Noise level: low to moderate

To go out: Yes

Address, phone: 7130 Buford Highway NE, Suite C-100, Atlanta; 678-691-3821

Website: nurkitchenusa.com

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