In a city as diverse and colorful as New York City, it is a bit funny to say that cuisine solely labeled “Palestinian” is not particularly common here. “Middle Eastern” tends to be the blanket term that ends up being the category for food of cultures from Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and surrounding countries. So when we found out that the new Palestinian restaurant Ayat NYC had opened in Bay Ridge just 2 months ago, we were ecstatic and knew we had to come try it out.
We had a number of small plates ranging from the delicious kibbeh (finely ground bulgur wheat and meat filled with ground beef, onions, and Mediterranean spices), to cheese manaquish (fresh sajj bread sandwiching a delicious, savory, and tangy akkawi cheese dotted with sesame and I believe nigella seeds), labneh (the thickest and most decadent strained and whipped yogurt topped generously with olive oil), to the dreamy beitenjan — fried baby eggplants drizzled with tahini and pomegranate molasses. This was my very first time having a number of these delicious bites including the sajj, the Palestinian bread, and it was amazing: stretchy, almost bouncy and soft in texture, not to mention wheaty and a little nutty. I’m a cheese lover, and the akkawi cheese did not disappoint: it was salty, tangy, with a strong savory flavor. I could get used to eating that more often! And the labneh here was the thickest and creamiest labneh I’ve ever had; it almost felt and tasted like I was just eating fully strained cream!
These cozy neighborhood spots are the places I love most when exploring New York City, the ones owned by locals and immigrants alike that just want to share their food with you and hope you will love their flavors as much as they do. They feel so homely, and the political messages and symbolism as depicted on the restaurant’s interior murals also made it a funky place to hang out.