Nur Kitchen’s chef-owner Shay Lavi first learned about cooking in Or Yehuda and from his Turkish and Libyan relatives. Now, after leaving Rozina Bakehouse in Downtown Atlanta, Lavi has opened his own establishment on Buford Highway.
“I always had a deep passion for cooking from a very early age,” Lavi says. “Most of my menu is influenced by my memories, and it’s rotating always due to farm availability.” For Mediterranean-inspired fare, the menu is extensive. In the partially exposed kitchen, diners can see the chef working, manning several burners, twisting, turning and delicately arranging. The whole branzino fish, one of Nur’s most popular dishes, was plated as if caught fresh. Lavi’s plates have character and complexity.
We went on a Wednesday evening. Lavi said, “We serve a mix of cultures here. Also, lunch draws a nice crowd.” Next to our table were two optometrists, David Grosswald and Darren Levine, leering at their brilliantly colored cold beet carpaccio platter. Grosswald said he had dined at Nur previously and waited 90 minutes to get a seat. The next time, Lavi’s wife, Karen, recognized him and arranged for a table right away. Karen, it turns out, grew up in Peachtree Corners. “She’s my wife, best friend, partner in everything,” says Lavi. “Although I cook at home, our best times are hanging out with the kids, doing basically whatever they want to do.”
Here’s what we sampled at Nur.
Burned eggplant ($10). Favorite dish! Brick oven-roasted eggplant with tahini, chopped salad, cheese, herbs and mango dressing. Very complex.
Roasted cauliflower ($10). Half cauliflower roasted with house labneh and za’atar. Even the cauliflower leaves were charred to perfection.
Side falafel. Swimming in hummus, the crisp brown balls were bright green on the inside. Americans may need to adjust to Lavi’s homemade hummus, which is thinner and milder than what we are used to buying at Publix. Lavi is not giving away any hints, but said, “the secret to a good hummus is the quality of the tahini and the freshness of the ingredients.” The fluffy pita is made in house and is oh so satisfying. Good the next day, also.
Fish of the Day: Branzino brick oven whole fish with seasonal vegetables and farm salad with buttery lettuce, simply dressed, and scarlet ripe tomato wedges and cucumbers.
Seasonal vegetable plate ($18). According to the server, the chef uses a unique process in drawing out natural juices with a smattering of butter. Kale, squash, broccoli, tomatoes.
Beverage-wise, Nur offers Turkish coffee, espresso, latte and eight beers, including an exotic Efes Turkish Pilsner. Wine by the glass ($14) or bottle (most $40).
Bottom line: Lavi deserves the press treatment for putting his heart and soul into Nur, where he has an extensive menu and is carving out a path for himself. Rumor has it that he is searching for larger space and will retain the current location for a different concept. Stay tuned.
Nur is located at 7130 Buford Highway, 678-691-3821.