Buuzecedi - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura


Homesick Syrian refugees head to this restaurant for a taste of Damascus. 


Over the past decade, the ruinous civil war still raging in Syria sent over 3.5 million refugees across the border to Turkey. Megalopolis Istanbul absorbed some 550,000 arrivals, and some of these ended up opening businesses here, mainly in the conservative Islamic district of Fatih. The neighborhood’s Syrian hub is the colorful Akşemsettin street dotted with elegant pastry shops, family restaurants, falafel joints, and cubbyhole groceries supplying homesick Syrians with familiar cheeses and spices. 

Among the street’s most popular eateries are two branches of Buuzecedi, named after a famous old Damascus establishment and opened here a few years ago by a Damascene transplant, Obai Al-Moallem, who also owns the homey Al-Moallem restaurant nearby.

Inside, the small cozy Buuzecedi spaces are decorated with colorful tiles, sepia photos of Damascus of yore, and a large screen blaring popular vintage Syrian TV series. By the entrance, a baker slaps large discs of khebez (pita) on the red-hot walls of a tandoori oven.

A tray on the counter piled high with freshly cooked chickpeas gives a clue to Buuzecedi’s legume-centric menu. While they serve excellent mutabal (a dip of tahini and eggplants) and griddled filled flatbreads, everyone’s here for the supernaturally crispy falafel, lush, creamy hummus, and ful, or brown beans, cooked in huge copper cauldrons to be served with a garlicky lemon and olive oil dressing and some fresh chopped tomatoes. 

But don’t overload on the appetizers! The main event here is fatteh, a stupendously rich legume layering of those long-simmered chickpeas with a sauce of puréed chickpeas, tahini and yogurt, plus crisp squares of fried pita, all lavishly garnished with toasted nuts.

For toppings, choose sizzling samneh (ghee) or fermented olive oil called fa’seh. “Fatteh is our traditional Syrian breakfast,” one of the friendly servers dressed in folkloric outfits called sirwal, might note.

Know Before You Go

The two branches are a block away from each other; if one is full, try the other. After the meal make a beeline for the glorious pastry shop Sultan Tatlisi on Akşemsettin Cd. 30a just two blocks away.

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April 2, 2024

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