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Photo credit: al Bustans

Al Bustan

319 East 53rd Street (Between 2nd & 3rd Avenues)

New York, NY 10022;


Hours: Lunch & Dinner 7 Days a Week



By Nancy Walman

Popular Lebanese Main Stay Takes Up New Residence in Bigger and Brighter Location

Al Bustan means "The Orchard" in Arabic and for roughly 20 years, the name Al Bustan went hand in hand with authentic Lebanese food and warm Lebanese hospitality to anyone living in or passing through New York City. With a quaint location on 3rd Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets,

Al Bustan became THE place to find the most elegant Lebanese cuisine. While the original closed last December it was due to Owner and Executive Chef Elias Ghafary wanting to expand his brand into an even larger and more beautiful space.

Thankfully for neighbors who have grown accustomed to their presence in the area, Ghafary found a gorgeous two-level space nearby and has reestablished the Al Bustan name back into Manhattan’s culinary landscape.

The clean inviting space is undeniably attractive with its THREE gorgeous fireplaces. With the temperatures continuing to fall and the wind continuing to whirl, perhaps it’s a good time to explore some of the restaurants around town that offer a cozy and warm solution to this nasty winter weather.  One fireplace is in the lounge so diners can quickly warm up as they come in from the cold and the other two are located in  the dining room so you can eat your Lebanese fare fireside at spacious tables, covered with sparkling white cloths,.

Giant wood ceiling beams, brick walls of red, white and stucco and pillars covered in white organdy (lit internally) add to the romantic setting, with its three chandeliers (one massive one leading down to a party room)  and shiny hard wood-floors.


The Elegant Main Dining Room. Photo credit: al Bustans

Aromatic non-alcoholic drinks are a perfect way to start off any meal and will add tranquility to your experience. The Tamarind is a simple concoction of Tamarind syrup and water, while the Jellab is a perfumed drink scented by rose water, incense, carob molasses and floated with pine nuts. The wine list consists mainly of bottles from France, Spain and of course Lebanon, home to the first Middle Eastern winery, Ksara, which was built in 1857 (the red, a Bordeaux blend, is a delight at just $35 the bottle). There is also a full bar offering generous cocktails, poured in lovely glassware.

The stars of any Lebanese restaurant , Meze, wonderful hot and cold appetizers, designed to be shared, including smoky whipped eggplant or chickpeas, divine stuffed grape-leafs,  a choice of three tartars, including lamb with pine nuts and light as air falafel, elevated to new levels, and far from the street food you may have sampled  in lesser kitchens. Four people can order a choice of 18 of these luscious treats, and yummy Lebanese desserts (even the ubiquitous baklava is exceptional) for about $45 a person.

Before ordering, take note of the delicious house-made turnips, coarsely-julienned, marinated  48 hours in in vinegar, salt, garlic and beet juice, which imparts a lovely pink color.


The Mouth watering Meze  Photo Credit Zandy Mangold

Ghafary has been with Al Bustan since the beginning and can actually take credit for introducing New York City to high end Lebanese food a couple of decades ago.  With a pedigree from France and having been #1 in his class at the Culinary School of Beirut, Ghafary is an expert on this bountiful cuisine and loves inviting people in to his “home” every night for some traditional Lebanese food such as Mouhamara, walnut, red pepper, garlic, chili pepper and pomegranate molasses (a personal favorite); Tabbouleh, parsley, tomato, onion and cracked wheat; and Moussakaa, eggplant simmered with tomato, garlic, onion and olive oil, as well as some unique dishes he has brought to this new location including Kibbeh Lakteen bill Saniya, baked pumpkin and cracked wheat stuffed with spinach and chickpea; Zaatar Salad, fresh wild oregano, onion, lemon juice and olive oil; and an updated take: Kibbeh Samak Nayeh, tuna tartare blended with jalapeno and onion.

Other outstanding offerings include classic Lamb Shawarma (paper thin slices of grilled lamb) to grilled Kafta. LabmehFoul Medamas, as well as elegant entrees such as Halibut.


Photo Credit Zandy Mangold

While Lebanese cuisine had made successful crossovers to cities including London and Paris, it wasn’t until Ghafary came to the US in 1988 and established himself as a restaurateur that this city finally came to know what true refined Lebanese cuisine meant. Service is not only efficient, but benevolent.

For a welcome change from the more familiar French or Italian cuisine, Al Bustan is a lovely restaurant and in the up-market Lebanese league, as good as it gets.


Copyright 2010 By Punch In International. All Rights Reserved



Partner, Al Bustan

Born and raised in Lebanon, Norman Hobeika has been in the food business for quite some time, as the founder and owner of a handful of Lebanese fast food operations across New York and New Jersey. While in Lebanon, Hobeika worked at his brother’s ski resort on the restaurant and catering side where he grew his love for the food world as well as his passion for skiing. Hobeika graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Business and Marketing from Fairley Dickinson, having spent part of his undergrad career at the American College of Switzerland as well, where his palette for fine dining and delicacies continued to expand.

His career in the US began in 1990 when he opened up his first fast food Lebanese restaurant, Amir’s Falafel & Gyros in the Manhattan Mall. Located on the seventh floor food court, Amir’s was the first Lebanese food option in this mall and one of the first successful Lebanese spots to come to New York City. In the midst of Amir’s successful 11-year tenure, Hobeika expanded his business to the Newport Center Mall in New Jersey where he opened Jenna’s Falefel & Gyros. In 1996, the expansion continued with Pita Market in the Jefferson Valley Mall in Westchester, which is still in operation to this day, though he has since sold his stake, and another Pita Market in the Bergen Market in Paramus, NJ in 1998.

After nearly 20 years in the fast food business, and having the fortune of good timing, Hobeika was able to realize his desire to be a part of the fine dining element in New York City. Having known Elias Ghafary for many years himself, it was actually Hobeika’s uncle, Paul Hobeika, also a partner, that suggested this collaboration. As a partner in the new Al Bustan, Hobeika helps manage and run the front of house operation.

In between working and being with his wife and three young children, Hobeika is an avid skier, always hitting the slopes when he returns home to Lebanon, as well as here in the States.




Owner/Executive Chef, Al Bustan

Over the course of nearly two decades, Elias Ghafary has elegantly demonstrated to New York City what true Lebanese hospitality means. Nearly two decades ago at the original Al Bustan, which opened in 1991, Ghafary introduced an extensive menu of Lebanese favorites, such as Mouhamara, Tabbouleh, Kibbeh and Shawarma, in a more sophisticated setting than New Yorkers had seen before in relation to this type of cuisine. He has lived and breathed Lebanese tradition his whole life, establishing himself as one of New York’s most prominent Lebanese chefs and restaurateurs and looks forward to carrying on this tradition with the new Al Bustan.

A native of Lebanon, Ghafary knew from an early age that he wanted to be a chef and one day own his own restaurant, even though he was the only one of his 7 siblings to venture into the food industry. He attended the Culinary School of Beirut and was #1 in class for three out of his four years in attendance. After learning his craft, Ghafary then moved to France and began waiting tables and cooking at Hotel de la Poste Vezley in Burgundy, before moving to Paris to take a management position of one of their most popular Lebanese restaurants, Yeldizlar. Here he matched his passion for Lebanese cuisine with the refinery of French technique and service. After a 5-year stint, he moved on to found and operate Alamir, another popular Lebanese spot and it was here he stayed before he moved to New York City in 1988 to open up his own Alamir on 2nd Avenue between 74th and 75th Streets.

The New York version of Alamir gave Ghafary a taste of what he longed for, to introduce New Yorkers, tourists and the like to real, sophisticated Lebanese food, not the more casual, sometimes grease ridden fare some were accustomed to. After a few short years, Ghafary put together his own menu and found an ideal location on 3rd Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets where he opened up the original Al Bustan. The public clamored and the reviews piled in, making Al Bustan a new must visit dining destination in Manhattan. Nearly 17 years later after an extremely successful run as Manhattan’s leading Lebanese restaurant, Ghafary, taking advantage of the down economy, managed to find an spacious two-story spot just blocks away and closed the original in order to make room for this gorgeous expansion.

Now with the new and even bigger version on 53rd Street between 2nd and 1st Avenues, Ghafary continues to welcome diners to his Al Bustan and treat them in kind.

 Sample Menu




Cold Appetizers
Chickpea dip with lemon juice and tahini $6.50
Warak Inab
Grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomato
and parsley $7.00
Baba Ghannouj
Smoked eggplant blended with tahini $7.00
Green lentils and rice pilaf $6.50
Salatat el Raheb
Smoked eggplant salad $7.00
Loubieh bil Zeit
French beans, tomato and onion $6.50
Hindbeh bil Zeit
Simmered dandelion with olive oil $6.50
Eggplant simmered in tomato,
garlic, onion and olive oil $6.50
Walnut, red pepper, garlic and chili pepper $6.50
Laban bi Khiar
Mint, yogurt, garlic and cucumber $6.50
Yogurt cream $7.00
Parsley, tomato, onion and cracked wheat $8.00
Romaine, tomato, curby, scallion,
radish and toasted pita $8.00
Lebanese Salad
Curby, tomato and romaine $6.00
Zaatar Salad
Wild green oregano, onion, lemon juice,
olive oil $8.00
Salatat Malfoof
Lebanese coleslaw, tomato, dried mint,
olive oil, lemon Juice $6.00
Spicy sun-dried beef $8.00
Spicy cheese, onion and tomato $7.00
Harra Kizzaba
Simmered tomato, onion, jalapeno,
cilantro and garlic $6.00
Salatat Jarjeer
Arugula salad $8.00
Zahra bil Tahini
Cauliflower, tahini, garlic and pomegranate $6.00
Silek Mahshi
Swiss chard leave stuffed with rice
tomato, chickpea and lemon $8.00
Hot Appetizers
Sauteed lamb sausages $7.00
Sauteed spicy beef sausages $7.00
Arayess bil Jibneh $8.00
Toasted pita filled with halloumi cheese
Arayess bil Lahme $8.00
Toasted pita filled with minced lamb
Chicken wings sauteed with garlic,
cilantro and lemon juice $7.00
Baked pastry topped with minced meat,
tomatoes and pignoli $7.00
Sawdat Dajaj
Chicken liver sauteed with pomegranate
molasses and garlic $7.00
Crushed chickpeas, cumin and
coriander, deep fried $6.00
Foul Medamas
Baby fava bean, garlic, lemon juice
and olive oil $6.00
Kibbeh Lakteen Maklieh
Ovals of pumpkin and cracked wheat
stuffed with spinach and chickpea $7.00
Kibbeh bil Lahme Maklieh
Ovals of ground beef and cracked wheat
stuffed with lamb, onion and pignoli $7.00
Kibbeh Samak Maklieh
Ovals of ground fish and cracked wheat
stuffed with onion and pignoli $7.00
Pastry stuffed with spinach and walnut $7.00
Hummus bi Lahmeh
Chickpea dip topped with sauteed lamb
and pignoli $10.00
Halloumi Cheese
Sheeps cheese, grilled or fried $10.00
Samboussek Lahme
Dumpling stuffed with minced meat $7.00
Samboussek Jibneh
Dumpling stuffed with feta cheese $7.00
Philo cigar filled with feta cheese
or minced lamb $7.00
Adas Bihamod
Lentil soup with swiss chard and lemon $7.00
Chawrabat Dajaj
Chicken soup with vegetable $7.00
Eating raw or undercooked fish, shellfish, eggs or meat increases the risk of food born illnesses

Prix Fixe Dinner Suggestions
Extra Meze
(For 4 persons) $50.00 per person
Choice of ten cold & hot appetizers
Mixed grill
Lebanese desserts

Royal Meze
(For 4 persons) $45.00 per person
Choice of eighteen cold & hot appetizers
and tartare delicacy
Lebanese desserts

Shawarma Lahme
Sliced beef marinated in
red vinegar and spices $19.00
Shawarma Dajaj
Sliced chicken marinated in
white vinegar, ginger and spice $19.00
LahmE Meshwi
Grilled lamb cubes $19.00
Kastalatah Ghanam
Grilled baby lamb chops $29.00
Sharhat Ghanam
Lamb tenderloin marinated and sauteed $29.00
Grilled Kafta
Minced lamb, mixed with chopped onion,
spices and parsley $19.00
Kafta Khashkhash
Minced lamb on a bed of diced tomato,
pomegranate molasses and garlic $19.00
Kafta Yoghurtlieh
Minced lamb topped with
sour yogurt and garlic $19.00
Kafta Dajaj
Minced chicken with garlic
and bell pepper $19.00
Shish Taouk
Grilled marinated chicken cubes $19.00
Dajaj bil Hamod
Chicken tenderloin sauteed in
lemon and spices $19.00
Farrouj Msahhab
Grilled boneless cornish hen $19.00
Farrouj Baladi
Grilled organic boneless
cornish hen $29.00
Grilled or sauteed $21.00
Mixed grill $25.00
Boneless Ribeye
16oz dry aged black angus ribeye
steak with french fries $28.00
Seafood and Fish (Subject to availability)
Grilled Prawns $30.00
Grilled Seabass (filet) $30.00
Grilled Red Snapper (filet) $30.00
Grilled Salmon (filet) $20.00
Sultan Ibrahim (barbounia) $18.00
Fried red mullet served with pita chips
Shish Samak $25.00
Seared yellow fin tuna skewered
Al Bustan Home Specials
Kibbeh bill Saniyah
Baked ground beef and cracked wheat stuffed
with minced meat and pignoli $20.00
Kibbeh bill Laban
Steamed kibbeh ovals in sour yogurt sauce $20.00
Kibbet Samak bill Saniyah
Baked blended fish and cracked wheat
stuffed with onion and pignoli $20.00
Kibbet Lakteen bill Saniyah
Baked pumpkin and cracked wheat stuffed
with spinach and chickpea $20.00
Samak Tajine
Baked red snapper, topped with a lightly
spiced tahini sauce $28.00
Samakeh Harra
Broiled filet of red snapper served
with a spicy sauce $28.00
Filet of halibut steamed in fish bouillon,
served on a bed of brown rice $28.00
Simmered okra and tomato in a lamb stew $20.00
Gray squash, grape leaves or eggplant
stuffed with minced lamb and rice $20.00
Chopped malow leaves cooked in
cilantro, garlic and chicken $20.00
Homemade philo dough stuffed
with basmati rice, peas, carrots and
minced lamb $22.00
Tartare Delicacies
Kibbeh Nayeh
Lamb tartare blended with
cracked wheat and spices $18.00
Kibbet Samak Nayeh
Tuna tartare blended with
jalepeno and onion $18.00
Habra Nayeh
Lamb filet tartare with
spices and garlic paste $18.00
Jat Nayeh
Combination of 3 tartare $38.00
Eating raw or undercooked fish, shellfish, eggs or meat increases the risk of food born illnesses



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