Gazala's serves authentic Druze food on the Upper West Side. The Druze, also known as the "Sons of Grace", is a a small religious sect largely of Arab descent but they also have Iranian, Kurdish, and European heritage. By tradition, the Druze mainly depend on olives and fruits for food, but because of their wide range of ethnic and regional influences, Druze cuisine also includes Turkish bourekas and salads, Lebanese vine leaves, zaatar and olive oil, and Israeli falafel.
I stopped by Gazala's before my trip to the Strand, craving something refreshing and affordable. I ordered the Gazala salad - lettuce, tomato, cucumber, scallion in a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. It was a huge portion when it arrived and smelled amazing, the lettuce, tomato, and onion were all incredibly fresh and the citric scent of lemon was strong and refreshing. But unfortunately, it didn't taste as refreshing as it smelled. The dressing was completely overwhelming and had drenched the entire salad, to the point that there was a two inch broth of lemon and olive juice at the bottom of the bowl. Every bite tasted like an oily lemon, completely masking the lettuce and tomato and only letting the occasional bite of raw scallion through. It was inedible.
I spent about a half hour struggling to eat the salad while reading Virginia Woolf's "The Waves" at my table. But each bite was overwhelming and required at least a couple minutes of mental preparation for the intense rush of the dressing. After a while, I just gave up. I probably should have sent it back but I was far too shy for something like that in New York. In Lawrence, where I know the restaurants and often a lot of people who work there, I would have felt much more comfortable asking for a salad with about a gallon less dressing. But there I was too shy about it and so just let the majority of my salad sit there uneaten.
Eventually, I paid and went to the door to leave. Unfortunately, I was confronted by a heavy rain storm outside. I hadn't even packed an umbrella, let alone brought one with me and so I decided to stay and wait for a break in the weather. While I was waiting, I opted to order one of my favorite desserts in the world - baklava. The baklava was baked in a round and sliced into medallions of phyllo pastry filled with chopped pistachio nuts and honey-lemon syrup.
It was incredible. The filling had an incredible fresh and sweet crunch and the phyllo was flakey and crunchy. It also avoided one of the most troublesome aspects of baklava when the baking and the syrup make the bottom layers of the baklava impossible to cut. But by serving it in rounds instead of thick triangles, each medallion was no more than a bite or two big and avoiding some of the perils of eating baklava.
I had to leave my delicious dessert quickly when I saw a break in the rain through the window. So I ate my last bite quickly, savoring the sweet nuttiness of the filling, left my money on the table and dashed out to try and catch the train before the rain started again (but, of course, I've already told you how miserably that turned out).
This joins other food blog articles posted in Wanderfood Wednesdays on Wanderlust and Lipstick. Check them out!