Mon-Fri, 9am-10pm; Sat, 11am-10pm; Sun,11am-9pm
4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R, W at 14th St.-Union Sq.
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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.
Shakshuka, kruveet, or pulled-pork sandwich on pita.