I recently sauntered on down to Semsom at 2 Astor Place, to the immediate left of the legendary Astor Place Haircutters, an East Village mainstay for 40-something years. It took the place of the Financier Patisserie that use to be on this loft-like ground level spot.
Semsom is not your typical “run in and grab a bite” fast food place. The single room establishment is large and airy, and customers have the choice of sitting at tables or couches. Customers get on line at the front counter and for eight or nine dollars get to put together a custom Lebanese style wrap or bowl. First they pick out the meat (Lebanese Meatballs, Taouk Chicken, Savory Beef or Tumeric Chicken) or vegan options (Wild-Thyme Cauliflower or Pumpkin Patty). The top seller is the perfectly seasoned and tender Lebanese Meatballs.
I opted for the white wrap (you choose from white or whole wheat) and had the counter person add almost all the toppings which come free with the wrap: pickled cabbage, hummus, lettuce, grape tomatoes, white sauce, hot sauce and assorted veggies. I have to say that the hummus was the freshest-tasting that I have ever had!
I also tried their fantastic Rose and Mulberry Lemonades ($3) which are made on the premises and were ultra refreshing. They are served in large 16 ounce portions.
I also had to try the desserts known as Manoosh. Mannish is actually a famous Levantine breakfast dough, but here at Samsom, they fill them and make desserts as well as breakfast items out of the soft, fluffy dough. For five or six dollars, you get a Manoosh filled with cheese, Labne, Zaatar, Nutella, Sweet Labne or a hard-boiled egg. I did the dessert thing, naturally, and has the Sweet Labne, which was a Lebanese cream cheese with honey mixed in. It was a pure, simple and delicious way to end a meal. Then I had to try the nutella with a little bit of Labne added. It tasted a bit like a chocolate cheesecake.
I strongly recommend Semsom for ultra fresh and fast Lebanese food. The space feels like a casual decorated loft apartment, and you really feel at home while you are eating there. The location cannot be beat, either–it’s near all the great shopping and services you want to be near downtown. Just for the record, 2 Astor Place is just east of Broadway. For more info, go to www.semsom.com. Phone: 212-979.2363 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.