Williamsburg has no shortage of places to eat, nor of Middle Eastern-cum-Israeli cuisine.
Yet somehow, a little cafe on Union Avenue stands out. ‘Reunion’, owned by Eldad and Inna Mashiach, serves classic Israeli dishes with a side of Tel Aviv attitude. The unassuming space is as comfortable in hipster Williamsburg as it would be shuk-side in, arguably, even more hipster Tel Aviv. This is the place to come for a dose of nostalgia and a true taste of the White City.
From the Hebrew script incorporated into the cafe’s logo — a shin rotated sideways to become an ‘E,’ a samech in place of an ‘O’ — to the pitcher of water that arrives on the table with a wedge of lemon and sprig of mint floating inside, to the unmistakably Israeli nose-ringed waitress bringing that effortless, slouchy Tel Aviv cool that New Yorkers can’t quite seem to muster, it feels like home.
The menu features all the usual suspects: runny-yolked shakshuka with challah to dip, herbaceous falafel, and the obligatory avocado toast that can’t be escaped in either city, with some welcome additions. Mujadara, a rice and lentil dish topped with crispy onions; Israeli “Reunion” breakfast with its quirky mix of sweet and savoury dips in their small steel containers— tahini (of course), jam, roasted peppers with feta; zesty chopped salad, its tiny cubes of tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions perfectly seasoned.
Best of all, the “Yemenite Pancake,” aka malawach! Served as it should be, with a soft-centered boiled egg, a grated tomato salsa seasoned only with salt, and zhoug. If you aren’t already familiar with zhoug, the Yemenite mother of all hot sauces, a simple blend of cilantro, chillies and lots of garlic, this dish couldn’t offer a better introduction.
Reunion serves as a good reminder that, despite the occasional bout of deep-frying, Israeli eats are notably healthy; fresh, vegetable-heavy, a short list of natural ingredients. The cafe has, wisely, built on this, working with local ingredients and suppliers. It makes a refreshing change from the stacks of maple-soaked pancakes and fried [insert as appropriate] that make up a typical New York brunch.
Their prices aren’t competitive, and patrons cringingly soak their schnitzel in ketchup and lurid red hot sauce, but on a warm, humid day, sipping a mason jar of coffee on ice, you can almost hear the waves.