At Nur, an Open-Armed Approach to Middle Eastern Flavors

Nur turns an Arab dessert, the folded pancakes called qatayef, into fried savory pies filled with a mince of spiced lamb. There is some sweetness in the dough and a fair amount of delicious fat in the lamb, so a break from the richness comes in the form of cucumber spears and salted green almonds. Maybe the yogurt-mint sauce would work better as a dip than a “chaser” served in a shot glass, but the flavors are right.

Born in southern Israel to a Moroccan family, Mr. Adoni draws on some of the cooking of that culture. The Moroccan fritters known as sfenj are the basis of an odd and appealing appetizer he calls a date doughnut. Although it is sweetened by dates it could just as easily be seen as a smoked trout beignet, or, when you get right down to it, a fish cake. The sauce is an intense sweet-and-sour citrus vinaigrette with curry powder lurking in it; a few drops go a long way.

Like the chatter of a nervous guest at a party, the hyperactivity of certain dishes probably comes from a desire to impress. But the quieter plates can be just as remarkable, sometimes more so. There is a suave and very good seafood stew that is a cross between bouillabaisse and chraime, the Moroccan braise of fish in spicy tomato sauce.

On the side is a bowl of what has to be the finest couscous I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. Mr. Adoni says he learned to make the fluffy little semolina crumbs from a Libyan woman. Also from Libya is the scoop of tershi that sits atop the couscous. Made from pumpkin, eggplant and harissa, it is sweet, spicy and terrific.

One factor in Nur’s early success — the small dining room has been thronged every time I’ve gone — is Mr. Adoni’s business partner and guide to local customs, Gadi Peleg. The owner of Breads Bakery, a champion producer of babka and rugelach, Mr. Peleg found the space, which crouches three steps below grade, beneath an eyelash-extension salon.

The ceilings are low. The layout is tight. The service is familiar and opinionated about the menu. (Almost all the opinions are positive.) The place looks and acts, in other words, like a New York restaurant. It sounds like one, too, when all the seats are taken and raised voices start careening off the ceiling. Oddly enough, the bar is relatively quiet, and not a bad place to eat if you want to have a conversation.

Mr. Peleg had a hand in the menu, and makes all the breads at his bakery from Mr. Adoni’s recipes. There is a miniature loaf of challah brushed with…

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