When reader Regan Elyse Murray sent in the following piece about the shishbarak at the newish Israeli restaurant Dagon, on Broadway and 91st Street, it sparked an idea. Let’s get specific about the tastes we love on the Upper West Side — not just the restaurants, but the dishes. If you have a favorite UWS dish you’d like to share, send it in to westsiderag at gmail. If it sets our mouths watering, we’ll post it. Here is Regan’s review.
I found myself charmed by the shishbarak dumplings at Dagon. You can think of shishbarak like Lebanese ravioli. I reference ravioli because this dough is thicker and sturdier than what you encounter when you bite into gyoza or potstickers, more akin to al dente pasta. The most common versions of shishbarak are reportedly made with lamb. Dagon’s take instead uses mushrooms. Now, even I, a card-carrying member of the Rare Steak Lovers club, have to admit that their decision to go vegetarian here is defensible given the lengths they have gone to stew, shred, and caramelize the fungi. This process creates a meaty filling with texture and flavor reminiscent of braised short ribs.
As we turn our attention to the toppings for these dumplings, you are going to have to bear with me. This is where we start to lose sight of the ravioli framework we have been working with. First, we have an herb sauce that still fits somewhat well into that Italian model. Although smooth in texture, it’s analogous to pesto with its garlicky, garden-fresh flavor. But then we come across a warm yogurt sauce.
The idea of spooning an American breakfast staple over an Israeli dinner may seem baffling at first. Upon closer examination, however, it becomes apparent that cultured dairy plays the same role in this dish that it does as Mexican crema on a burrito or plate of enchiladas. It gives the carbs a creamy, tangy boost. This sauce arrives warmed and whipped, cloaking the dumplings like a dairy heated blanket. Dagon draws on the flavors of bagels and cream cheese by finishing the plate with a toasty, breath-murdering mix of pine nuts, sesame seeds, and crispy onions and garlic over the yogurt. The savory crunch, absent from most filled pasta dishes, is a welcome surprise.
— Regan Elyse Murray @Regan_Elyse_Eats
Dagon, 2454 Broadway at 91st Street, Hours: Open for dinner from 5 to 10 pm every day and for brunch on weekends from 10:30 am to 3 pm.
Featured dish: Shishbarak ($22), available on both the brunch and dinner menus.