Sun-Thu, 11am-10:30pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-midnight
1 at 50th St.; C, E at 50th St.; N, R, W at 49th St.
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38th St. to 59th St., Sixth Ave. to Twelfth Ave.
Israeli expat Gazala Halabi opened this tiny spot in late 2007, and you can still often find her stretching dough to make paper-thin pitas on a hot, domed griddle in the window. The cuisine is Druze--a mystic religion whose faithful live mainly in the Middle East--which shares flavors with Syrian, Lebanese, and Israeli traditions. Gazala’s small dining room is sparsely decorated with wooden banquettes and miniature chandeliers, and there’s often a line of hungry Hell’s Kitchenites out front, waiting to tuck into heaping servings of moist seared lamb kebab, crispy falafel, and meze like Foul Mudammas, a hearty spread of smashed fava beans. Meat dishes have a tasty light char; the specialty, Halabi, is a sizzling plate of grilled chopped lamb and beef topped with a tangy, roasted tomato sauce. Basic whole-grilled fish is equally winning, enlivened with a simple lemon and salt seasoning, and yielding an unusually smoky flavor. The must-have item, however, is the flaky Boureka—off the menu, but offered every day in a variety of fillings like spinach, feta, and artichoke. The savory pastries seem to have a million layers of buttery Filo dough; eaten fresh from the oven, they’re practically transporting.Recommended Dishes
Boureka, $12; lamb kabab, $17.95; grilled fish, market price