2004: Efi Nahon is recruited from his native Israel to open Taboon, which officially opens its doors in 2004, introducing the art of traditional Palestinian taboon cooking to New York City (the pleasure was ours!)
“Everything was new, important, and interesting, especially learning to purchase from city vendors,” said chef Nahon. “I had to learn the terminology — cuts of meat are called different names here than they are in Israel — and start thinking in terms of pounds and ounces instead of kilograms.”
Fun Fact: There’s basically no difference between a taboon, a wood oven, and a brick oven. They’re all dome-shaped, built with clay bricks, and fueled by wood. Taboons, according to Nahon, have the capacity to better cook fish, poultry, meat, veggie, and bread.
2008: Nahon takes over Barbounia’s kitchen, bringing his newfound confidence and experience with him. Here, he gets a bit more adventurous and daring, realizing his passion for combining Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. The owners had other ideas, though: they wanted the restaurant to be more Greek and Italian. “They didn’t think Middle Eastern food was sexy,” Nahon explains.
Nahon didn’t like the idea of mimicking every other Mediterranean haunt in the city, so he stuck to his guns until the restaurant's management warmed to the concept.
2013: The chef is given the opportunity to design his own kitchen and menu in the opening of Bustan, which quickly became an Upper West Side favorite.
“Bustan was the final notch in building my confidence, learning how to better deal with customers, and working with them on substitutions,” he said. “I was free to explore how to combine multiple ingredients and cook them to their best advantage in a Taboon.”
2015: Back at Taboon, everything is new and different. The menu manages to incorporate those Greek and Italian influences after all, and has lots of new twists. Look out for the loaded potatoes with tahini in lieu of sour cream, cocktail sauce made with Moroccan souk chili powder instead of horseradish, and smoked duck crumble stands in for bacon bits.