The summer of 2020 wasn’t the easiest time to open a restaurant. But Igor Fazylov faced that challenge when he opened his “Mediterranean Urban Restaurant,” known by the acronym “MUR.” Over the course of the next year and a half, MUR gained quite a reputation for being able to take the standard Israeli flavors and liven them up with modern techniques and fine dining twists.
But MUR was almost too popular. It needed more space. So Fazylov closed it for almost a year during which he bought the larger space next door and built the new MUR. This version is an impressive sight to behold. From the bar to the booths, the ambiance is certainly a feature. But the menu is just as amazing.
Though MUR reopened at the beginning of the year, I decided to wait until their partnership with Akimori — the omakase sushi bar — was up and running before I visited. Akimori is in the process of opening their second full location next door to MUR (in the space MUR originally occupied). The internal connection allows MUR to join Salt Steakhouse in Long Branch, NJ, and Bonito in Manhattan in the fraternity of restaurants privileged to have Akimori curate a section of their menu.
When I was invited to see everything the new MUR had to offer, I made sure to take advantage of the association with Akimori, ordering the MUR Signature Roll, which was a work of art. Filled with spicy tuna and avocado, the yellowtail that was wrapped around the outside of this roll was the focal point. The yuzu miso sitting at the bottom of the dish provided a punch of acidity and saltiness, while the crispy rice noodles worked wonders for the texture. As always, Akimori doesn’t disappoint.
Staying in the world of one-bite appetizers, I’d recommend ordering the Turkey Wrapped Dates even if they might usually fall outside of your comfort zone. Each date acts as a warm, sweet, soft center, with the crispy smoked turkey making a savory wrapper. There’s a creamy tofu-based sauce that you’ll find in dollops on each bite, and there’s a light sprinkling of truffle oil that makes its presence known without overpowering the palette. If these were a passed hors d’oeuvre at a wedding, you’d be following the server around all night.
Shawarma is often consumed at establishments with less ambiance than MUR. But the House Shawarma here takes the street food to a new level. Served in a shallow bowl with homemade hummus at the bottom, the divot in the middle is piled high with a mix of chicken and lamb shawarma to go along with the sumac onions. Amba is poured around the outside of the hummus, making it the choice of the patron as to whether it breaches the barrier and mixes into the dish. You could demolish the pita that comes along for the ride in mere minutes as you try to get some of everything on each dip.
The last starter that stands out is the Baby Got Back. These applewood smoked ribs are a great example of how MUR takes something and makes it jive with the genre. There might not be a ton of applewood smoked ribs in the Mediterranean, but these ribs are served in a pomegranate sumac reduction that you won’t be able to get enough of. The sweet and sour pairing makes for an interesting combination and balances well with the smoky flavor of the beef. The citrus salad that comes on the plate adds a brightness and color that makes for a complete work of art.
As for your main course, there are plenty of options with which you are likely familiar. And at a restaurant as good as MUR, you can trust that you’re in good hands. But the Lamb Kofta Kebab Terracotta is probably a new one for diners.
Even the name doesn’t quite tell you enough and the menu description helps only slightly more. A terracotta is a clay pot that something is baked and often served in, but kebabs are not usually involved. In this case, the kebabs are cooked in a tomato and charred red onion confit and topped with tahini and pine nuts.
Doesn’t the liquid evaporate causing everything to bake onto the terracotta? It would if they didn’t cover the top with flatbread dough. It both keeps the moisture inside and bakes the bread as a lid for the terracotta.
When your server brings it to your table, they cut around the edge and peel back the flatbread dome (which you can then tear off to use for dipping). There’s also some house pita to soak up that confit mixture, but you’ll end up having to eat some of the deliciousness with a fork or spoon because the portion size is quite large. I’d say this is the one dish that you must try if you visit MUR.
If you’ve left room for dessert, order the Baklava Baklava. It’s a classic, it’s made fresh, and it’s perfect. The dough comes out crisp and slightly crunchy, the sweetness of the silan is not overbearing, the cream is light and smooth, and the pistachio flavoring provides that signature nuttiness. Taking a bite of this will finalize your appreciation for the accomplishment that is the MUR experience.
With very few unique offerings in the kosher world, MUR stands out. There isn’t another place you can go to get truly elevated Mediterranean food in an upscale restaurant. I often hear that as the kosher palette expands, we need more inventive kosher restaurants.
In other words, we need MUR.