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A baked potato oozing white creme fraiche.
Port Sa’id’s killer baked potato.

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The Israeli Restaurant Wave Hits the Village With This Sibling to Miznon

The latest from Eyal Shani has a listening bar with records for sale

When Miznon opened in Chelsea Market in 2018, excited customers lined up to try the first U.S. location for the Tel Aviv-based restaurant from Eyal Shani. Sandwiches on pillow-soft pitas were the specialty of this Israeli self-service chain — where customers sat on bleachers waiting for their orders to be called. Largely vegetable-driven and mainly Mediterranean, the fillings ran to beet stew with tahini, wild mushrooms in spicy sauce, and a novel cheeseburger seared on one side and folded over on itself, as good as any smash burger in town.

In addition to its Upper West Side location and HaSalon that opened in Midtown West in 2019, Shani has brought another of his restaurants here: Named after the fifth largest city in Egypt, which sits at the mouth of the Suez Canal, Port Sa’id — which also opened in Tel Aviv, this time, in 2012 — offers a menu comparable to Miznon’s but more expensive, featuring vegetables, grains, grilled meats, and seafood with a Eastern Mediterranean flair. The 4,000-square-foot restaurant is located at 350 Hudson Street at the corner of King, a neighborhood that real estate agents are fond of calling Hudson Square.

A windowed facade with a black and white sign.
Port Sa’d, named after an Egyptian city.
A high ceilinged space with blue tiled pillars and a bar on the right.
The interior of Port Sa’id.

The giant room is sparely furnished with many windows, its pillars plastered with blue tiles, and a long and lively bar along one side. Turntables and a record collection dubbed a listening bar fill an adjacent wall, looking like an audiophile’s living room from the 1960s, and the vinyl is for sale. Periodically, a DJ puts on a scratchy record of a singer warbling fada at high volume; the diners jump and then return to their food and drink. (It’s a collaboration among the restaurant, an online radio station, Teder, and the LA-based Sheep’s Clothing.)

A friend and I went early on a recent evening a few days after opening as rain threatened and Resy showed no reservations — and were able to talk our way in. We were seated in a loungey area near the front door, where we could see customers come and go, which included couples and families with small kids.

With most tables seeming to have ordered only a plate or two of food, Port Sa’id kicked off as drinking spot where you can also get a snack or two, but we set about ordering more extensively from the 30-item menu. It is attributed to North Minzon chef Victor Gothelf.

The best thing we ate was the burning potato ($9), basically a baked potato with charred hash marks, overflowing with crème fraîche, topped with cracked black peppercorns and shaved horseradish root.

A grain salad and plate of thin-shaved beets sprinkled with horseradish.
Freekeh on the left, slippery beet carpaccio snowed with horseradish on the right.

Another favorite was a salad ($11) of freekeh, an heirloom grain that offers a nutty flavor, tossed with minced vegetables and aromatic alliums atop thick yogurt in a bowl. While this presentation works, another didn’t: A rather dull but colorful beet carpaccio came on a piece of gold-colored cardboard, and the slippery oiled beets slid right off the cardboard and onto our table. A server ran over with a plate but it was up to us to retrieve the beets.

A bread salad made with toasted sourdough featured ripe roasted tomatoes the size of table-tennis balls with what were referred to as Israeli mountain herbs — mint and cilantro prominent among them. Unlike most Middle Eastern bread salads, this one was sent spinning in an altogether wonderful direction with anchovies, invisible but pungent.

Another salad was cryptically described on the menu as “sac de coq, not what you think but the same pleasure made out of chicken.” It was basically the bread salad sans bread but with tidbits of chicken. It reinforced the idea that the menu at Port Sa’id features a limited number of very good ingredients over and over again, a cost-cutting measure that doesn’t shortcut flavor.

A ground lamb kebab with roasted green chile, tahini, etc.
So-called juicy lamb kebab.
Two sandwich halves wrapped in white paper with olives in the center.
Port Sa’id’s fancily wrapped egg salad sandwich.

The same tomatoes are a welcome addition to the so-called juicy lamb kebab ($22). They are only one of a series of ingredients that surround the kebab, including a carved and charred onion, a pool of tahini, a long green chile (empty the seeds before you eat it), a slick of olive oil, and zhoug — a spicy Yemenite cilantro relish. Eating the kebab as you nibble its accompaniments is a pleasure, but one can’t help wondering, Why no pita?

Instead, there’s a sandwich section — channeling Miznon. They’re fancifully wrapped in paper and presented with a handful of green olives and a pickled pepper or two. Egg salad was the one we picked. Yes, it was tasty, but it still seems extraneous on the menu of a semi-expensive restaurant — unless you subscribe to my theory of Port Sa’id being mainly a bar with good bar food.

Which suggests why the beverages are so reasonably priced — for Manhattan, that is. A decent pour of a Sicilian white Grillo wine tasting of pears set me back $14, while a strong mojito made with arak, giving it a licorice flavor, was only $16, while I would have expected $19 or $20.

A pair of desserts.
Basque cheesecake and stone-fruit crumble.

Another oddity of Port Sa’id is its fulsome dessert selection, encompassing six choices (all $11). I’d readily recommend the Basque cheesecake, creamy and not too sweet, with an admirable browned upper surface. A seasonal stone-fruit crumble that was mainly cherries was soupy and mushy. Come to think of it, it could have been repaired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but instead, we got more creme fraiche.

Port Sa'id NYC

350 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
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