Tuvia Feldman, proprietor of the popular modern Israeli restaurant, Bustan, announced the appointment of Rafael Hasid as executive chef and partner. A major operator and talented chef in his own right, Hasid arrives at Bustan to usher in a new era for the Upper West Side eatery.
Rafael, or “Rafi,” as those that know him best call him, graduated from the French Culinary Institute in 2001, and began his career as chef at Pere Pinard in Manhattan and then at Yamato in Brooklyn. Eager to pour his passion and creativity into a project he could call his own, he opened Miriam restaurant in 2005, which has since become a Brooklyn institution, drawing lines around the block for its beloved Israeli-inspired brunch. Rafi followed up by opening Wolf & Deer in 2011, a Park Slope haven for craft cocktails, good wine and elevated bar snacks in an intimate setting. His most recent venture before arriving at Bustan is Bergen Dean, a gourmet sandwich shop featuring locally sourced ingredients, unique condiments, and slow-cooked fare.
Rafi seeks to take Bustan to the next level, bringing his experience as a successful restaurateur, his understanding of Mediterranean cuisine as a native of Israel, and his love for being in the kitchen. A hands-on operator, he prefers to be involved in all stages of dish creation from prep, to cooking, to arranging the final garnish before the food leaves the kitchen. To match his enthusiasm, he has brought in Chef de Cuisine Christopher Burgen, as well as a new, highly experienced front of house team.
Though there are many new and exciting menu items, the majority of the cooking is still done in the custom hand-built wood-fired brick taboon, a Middle Eastern oven that receives a game-changing modification here: a 360 degree rotating base. The changes begin with the overhauled dinner menu, redesigned to encourage sharing, grazing and passing, in the traditional lively Mediterranean fashion. Guests may commence their meal with selections of “Mazettim,” small plates such as tender taboon charred octopus, homemade lamb merguez with Moroccan red lentil stew, or the restaurant’s unmatched hummus—house made with pure roasted sesame and tahini imported from Nazareth, Israel, served with fluffy pita bread. Salads, which use market fresh seasonal produce, include the new caramelized fresh figs & orange, bright and refreshing for fall, as well as the popular and health-conscious Israeli salad, a medley of chopped tomato, cucumber, red onion, radish and Kalamata olives with a tahini, sumac & lemon dressing. Entrees not to be missed include specialties such as an amazing lamb terracotta, baked in a bread crust with spiced ground lamb kebab and charred Mediterranean vegetables, and a whole branzino, fully cooked in a 360-degree turn in the oven, emerging moist and infused with fresh herbs on the inside, while crisp and smoke-infused on the outside. And of course, vegetarian options abound, such as a version of the terracotta with braised fennel, roasted tomato, charred onion, tarragon and shaved almonds baked in a flaky bread dome.
Chef/Partner Rafi Hasid has also taken brunch at Bustan to new heights, serving it all week-long, and bringing star dishes from his wildly popular brunch menu at Miriam: for example, the burekas breakfast features two eggs any style served with burekas, flavorful taboon-baked pouches of feta cheese and olives wrapped in crispy, sesame seed-sprinkled phyllo dough; the Israeli breakfast pairs eggs with Israeli salad and lebaneh cheese, a light, Lebanese strained yogurt that you will want to spread on everything; the traditional Yemenite fried dough, Mallawach, is accompanied by crushed fresh tomato and zhoug, a spicy sauce of cardamon, jalapeno and cilantro ground in-house; gluten-free potato latkes topped with smoked salmon are joined on the plate by eggs and a side of lebaneh. And a large section of the menu dedicated to sides allows guests to order their favorite brunch treats a la carte.
You absolutely do not want to skip dessert. Kanafeh is made with rosewater syrup infused shredded phyllo filled with ricotta and pistachios with honey-lavender gelato. The Turkish sundae is a wonderful invention: vanilla gelato topped with crisped rice, caramelized nuts, and shredded halva.
Also new at Bustan is a La Colombe coffee program, and a forthcoming redesigned craft cocktail menu from mixologist Kelsey Didit of Wolf & Deer. The new additions will feature fresh ingredients and striking garnishes that underscore the beauty of the space. Select favorites from Bustan’s existing menu will remain, including the fig lemonade, built from house-infused fig vodka, St. Germain and ginger beer. The beverage program includes 6 beers on tap, 6 bottled beers (and seasonal selections), non-alcoholic options (juices and nectars, sparkling fruit soda, ginger beer) and a comprehensive wine by the glass, half bottle and bottle selection.
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