Dagon, an exciting new restaurant on Manhattan’s upper west side is named for the Phoenician and Philistine god of agriculture and the earth, and features cuisine from “somewhere in the Mediterranean.” That phrase, which Dagon is using to describe the heritage of the food, is taken from the Voice of Peace, the offshore radio station that broadcast in the Middle East for 20 years from the former Dutch cargo vessel MV Peace, whose motto was from somewhere in the Mediterranean, we are the Voice of Peace.
Owner Simon Oren and his partners David Sasson, and Gil Ohana remember the radio station fondly and will pay tribute to it with the music they play at Dagon. Chef Partner Ari Bokovza, most recently of Claudette, and who is of Israeli heritage, feels that the Mezze, and small plates selections are the soul of the restaurant with items such as Sasso Chicken Liver with mustard seeds, date syrup, crispy shallot and baharat; Roasted Beets with horseradish yogurt, fried chickpeas, and crispy beef tongue; Charred Eggplant with buttermilk vinaigrette, tomato jam, and shabazi bread crumbs, and Shishbarak: Lebanese mushroom filled dumplings, with warm yogurt, pine nuts, and spicy herb sauce. Kubaneh, and Jerusalem Bagel are homemade, and there is a section of creative salads and entrees including Levantine “Caesar” with tahini anchovy dressing, parmesan, fried chick peas, toasted sesame, and anchovy tempura; Harissa BBQ Chicken with potato sumac puree, local greens, and Whole Roasted Branzino cooked over charcoal, with preserved lemon butter, and celery root.
In true fashion of the Chef Driven group, who also owns Nice Matin, Bouillon Marseille, Nizza, and Barbounia, Dagon will have a world-class wine list and beverage program curated by Aviram Turgeman. The wine list will have approximately 100 bottles of wines from the Mediterranean, some kosher and actually very good, he says. His cocktails will use fruit juices, herbs and spices from the region, and non-alcoholic wise he’ll serve lemonades such as rosewater, lemon verbena, and tamarind. He says “it’s all about lemonade on a hot day in Israel.”
Look-wise the restaurant has a mod and homey feel with 70’s vintage wallpapers, light wood tables, and chairs and banquettes with ivory and chocolate colored cushions. Think La Dolce Vita Tel Aviv style. With shades of greens and blues throughout, the feel is a Mediterranean seaside home from the glazed Moroccan tiled floor, to the wood slatted ceiling resembling shutters. The sun streams in from the large windows which wrap around the vast corner space. There is a food bar that faces the open kitchen with about 12 stools, and a separate three-sided bar for drinking. The whole restaurant can seat 135, with a main dining room for 100, and up a few stairs two rooms, one semi-private for 20, and another for 10. But clearly now it’ll be 25 people inside plus their outdoor area seating 30.