This venue is closed.
Little remains of the Jewish community in Yemen, but their distinctive cuisine, formed during two-thousand years in a small Arabian Peninsula kingdom, can be found at Rectangles on the Upper East Side. The Yemeni/Israeli menu covers territory similar to Middle Eastern and Turkish restaurants, with humus, shawarma, and cous cous. Kebabs are served on long metal skewers, the meat seasoned with hawaij, a peppery Yemeni spice. Falafel is a vivid green within a crisp blackened exterior, accompanied by fluffy homemade pita. The roast lamb shank would fit a Seder plate of Brobdingnagian proportions, the tender meat falling off the long bone and mingling with a dark, subtle sauce of parsley, tomato, cilantro, and onion. Melawach, a crispy Yemeni bread reminiscent of roti, comes in a hubcap-sized appetizer portion with hardboiled egg, chopped tomato, and z'houg, a fiery green chili paste. As a kosher restaurant, there's no dairy here, so the few European ringers on the menu—chocolate mousse and Bavarian cream among the desserts, for example—are pareve. Rectangles relocated in 2005 after almost 20 years in the East Village. The Upper East Side space is reminiscent of a casbah, with fortified-looking stucco walls hung with weathered shutters. The effect is exotic but not heavy-handed, much like the flavors of this unique cuisine.
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