The modern crisp strip of a restaurant, Naya defies some of familiar yet trite décor that plays up its Mediterranean heritage. Rightfully so, as I find that most New Yorkers define ethnic as a little more exotic than hummus. If you can buy it at D’Ag, it’s not worth the theatrics. Instead, Naya lets the food speak for itself, sans pouf and sunset color.
We return to the humble hummus. A classic start, thick with chickpea and impregnated with citrus, the dish is accompanied by thin and warm pita bread resting in a toasty napkin bundle. The pita is somewhat less naan-like than my preference, but perhaps the Lebanese prefer their bread in the single-ply variety—something to investigate further.
Continuing on with another appetizer, we enjoyed the Fatayer Sabenegh. Little pies or pockets of spinach with sumac. Perhaps worthy of a little ethnic fanfare, sumac is a berry native to the Mediterranean, with a sharp, almost citrus flair. Red in coloring, it was lost visually in the deep moss of Spinach, but there was no hiding the intense and nuanced tart.
To keep the holiday weight off, my friend and I split an entrée of Chicken Shih Taouk—or more familiar to you and I as killer kebabs. What was great with the charred yet moist chicken, was the garlic sauce, almost lard-like in texture, but with a bite of garlic spice. Probed for more information, the waiter simply told me that the concoction was oil, lemon, salt, and garlic…a likely story.
On another occasion, I had enjoyed the baked bass with spicy tahini. Time has faded my memory somewhat, and the granularity to which I recall the name tells me it was solid, but falls short of sensation—and duly, my synapses hadn’t connected it as such. Menupages tells me I had the Samke Harra, maybe you ought to give it a try as well if you’re partial to a good fillet.
All in all, a decent find for those of us cooped up in the corporate wonderland that is Midtown East. An unusual set up no doubt, with a railroad layout and building materials not known to nature. However, the food is a juxtaposition (a word to remind myself that I have, in fact, gone to college) of the bare-bones exterior and every plate is a wealth of flavor in the grey corporate winter.
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1057 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10022