My visits to New York City are usually hectic, overscheduled, and downright tiring. Between friends and family, the pressures of "researching" restaurants and visiting everyone's favorite museum, vacations to the Big Apple are hardly leisurely affairs. This time, though, I resolved to take it easy.
Fortunately, it's not hard to find good food as long as you schedule meetings for mealtime. Even a late-night rendezvous will uncover good eats.
Two places that I was delighted to try this past weekend, with the guidance of friends, are Gazala Place in Hell's Kitchen (or, as the real estate agents have been calling it since the new high-rises came in: Midtown West) and the infamous Bonchon Chicken in Koreatown.
Named for its Isreali chef-owner, Gazala Halabi, Gazala Place is a narrow, friendly restaurant that specializes in Druze cuisine. Followers of an ancient sect that branched off from the Muslim religion, the Druze played a little known yet very important role in the politics of Syria and Lebanon, and a small community continues to live as a distinct, designated ethnic group in Israel.
This New York outpost is barely wide enough to slip through walking sideways, and of course, its handful of tables are often full. Up front is a special curved griddle for making pita--a lovely bread that does not at all resemble the convenient sandwich pockets many of us conjure. Rather, the housemade pita is a thin, delicate expanse of crepe-like bread, an edible whole-wheat handkerchief that piles and folds and wraps around an endless array of Gazala's savory bites.