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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
Car park: free in bundle
MARTA station: no
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
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