I can’t stop thinking about the dinner I had on Monday night with my friend Dina.
Really though, I honestly can’t remember the last time I ate something so delicious that was still on my mind several days later. How did Shuka, an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant in SoHo, make such a lasting impression? I’m glad you asked—let’s break it down (Alexa, cue the Mediterranean music, please).
Truth is, looks are everything (especially in New York). If it weren’t for word of mouth, online reviews and social media, think of how much business would be lost on those dive-y, hole in the wall places known for their amazing food. We’d probably walk right past them! So from the way Shuka’s gorgeous blue and red exterior hit me in the eye, I knew this restaurant had a serious “it” factor.
When I arrived for our 6 p.m. reservation, the host took me to the back room, which was way more spacious than I expected. I also didn’t expect to be one of like, three people there for dinner. Totally not complaining though, because I had time to stare around at the dainty candles, lights strung across the ceiling, and touches of Mediterranean flair weaved into the room’s design. Best of all, there were throw pillows at every seat along the wall (btw, that cushioned/booth seating is my fave).
“Oh my God, I needed these peaceful, zen vibes after a long Monday!” I gushed to the host. “This is the best, thank you so much.”
He laughed and motioned around him. “I know, hard to complain, right?”
Once Dina showed up and we got our basic white girl “ohmigod it’s been forever/how are you/you look SO cute/spill alllll the new tea” out of the way, our friendly waiter brought us a couple of white wine samples. We decided to live large (because that’s what you do on a Monday night, duh) and split a bottle of Ottosoldi Gavi di Gavi. Dina and I were a little anxious about not having the bottle at the table to track our rate of consumption, but our waiter was pretty attentive.
After poring over the menu, debating what to order and asking for recommendations, we settled on the following:
Whipped feta + pistachio dip – this is one of Shuka’s most popular items on the menu, so we definitely had to order it. I’ve only had feta in the form of cubes or crumbles, which might have been why I liked the creamy consistency so much. And the homemade pita served with it was seriously remarkable. After having that, I don’t ever want store-bought pita again.
Crispy cauliflower – ugh, what I would give to recreate this at home. I don’t know how the chefs achieve that perfect crispiness, but it’s magic. In the bottom of the serving bowl was a puddle of pickled mustard aioli; we didn’t know it was there until half the cauliflower was gone. After that, we didn’t waste a drop!
Falafel – I’m a sucker for fresh falafel, and these did not disappoint. Surprisingly, the crunchy exterior didn’t get soggy from the tahini drizzle underneath them. The falafel also came with a side of “turmeric pickles,” although neither of us could identify the vegetable it was made with (perhaps radishes?)
Roasted brussels sprouts – according to the menu description, the sprouts were prepared with silan (which is apparently date syrup), pickled chili, lemon and sesame seeds. Our waiter said these are also a bestseller, and within the first taste, I understood why. The sprouts also fulfilled our vitamin C quota for the day!
Dina and I weren’t sure if what we ordered would fill us up enough, but by the end, we agreed it was the perfect amount for two people—or at least, two people who washed down their dinner with a bottle of wine. We politely turned down dessert at the restaurant, but Dina read my mind.
“Do you want to see if there’s like… an ice cream place nearby…?” she gauged with a smile.
I grinned back. “And this is why you’re one of my best friends!”
Alas, we walked a few blocks to Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream and ended the night on a sweet note. Life’s too short, and all of us deserve to treat ourselves to making it through Monday, right?
Thanks for reading!