The finest thing to try to eat at SYKO, a cafe that opened previous year, in Windsor Terrace, is a single of the very best items I’ve ever eaten: the Fatboy, an evocatively, and precisely, named sandwich. A thick, crisp-edged Korean-style scallion pancake with a mochi-like texture (thanks to potato starch) is layered with sticky white rice, frilly romaine lettuce, a handful of crunchy batons of danmuji (sweet pickled daikon, dyed neon yellow with turmeric), and a preference of protein—beef bulgogi, rooster bulgogi, or fried tofu strewn with kimchi. Then it is tightly rolled into a stubby cylinder and sliced in half, to be doctored to taste with the dwelling-created gochugaru-dependent yangnyeomjang sauce.
The origin story of this glorious generation tells the origin story of the restaurant. In 2013, the siblings Mazen and Rosette Khoury moved, with their brother and their mother, from Syria to Brooklyn. That very same year, Rosette met her now partner, James Kim, who is Korean American and grew up in Windsor Terrace, where by his dad and mom individual a grocery shop. Thanks to Kim, Mazen—who co-owned a modest takeout store with Rosette in their hometown and is a graduate of Emma’s Torch, a Brooklyn restaurant that trains refugees—became enamored of Korean foodstuff. One day, as the blended spouse and children shared a meal of household-cooked Korean barbecue, folding lettuce leaves around bulgogi and rice, Mazen noticed a connection to Arabic delicacies: Why not take it a single action even more and wrap it all into a sandwich, as is often performed with shawarma?
The Fatboy falls shy of fusion, as does SYKO (a portmanteau of Syrian and Korean), which is co-owned by the 3 Khoury siblings and Kim. Mazen, who devised the menu, experimented with combining factors of each individual cuisine but made a decision that he was far better off presenting them side by side, like the syllables of the restaurant’s title. Guiding the counter are two discrete sets of parts: Korean on the still left (carrot matchsticks, gochujang, sautéed shiitake) and Syrian on the suitable (labneh, tahini, fried cauliflower), an arrangement mirrored on the menu.
In the system of quite a few SYKO foods, both equally at dwelling and in the retail store, which has only a handful of seats (the bulk of the restaurant’s business enterprise is takeout and supply), I tried out to establish regardless of whether a single delicacies was improved executed than the other. I was satisfied to locate that—putting aside the Fatboy, which is in a league of its own—the groups scored neck and neck. The exact (halal) beef and rooster applied for the bulgogi becomes shawarma, marinated in cinnamon and cumin instead of Asian pear and mirin and served with rice or fries, or wrapped in equally pita and saj, a thinner flatbread, with both tomato and onion or pickles and pomegranate molasses.
I was just as joyful with the vegetarian kimbap, seaweed rice rolls packed with spinach, carrots, cucumber, pickled radish, and zucchini, as I was with the vegetarian kibbeh, cracked-wheat dough shaped into pleasingly chewy, kidney-formed disks. The potato, that excellent equalizer, is prepared to breathtaking effect on both equally menus: reduce into strips, then blanched and stir-fried in sesame oil for silky Korean household fries deep-fried, Syrian style, into crisp nuggets saturated with a crimson very hot sauce termed shatta, and flecked with cilantro and garlic boiled, carefully mashed, and blended with parsley, excess fat chunks of scallion, olive oil, and lemon juice, for a chilly salad.
For dessert, there are hotteok, tiny pancakes loaded with brown sugar and cinnamon, and medjool dates stuffed with peanut butter, encased in dim chocolate, and rolled in rose petals or shredded coconut. On the wall over SYKO’s refrigerated-drinks circumstance, a mural depicts the Manhattan avenue signs marking the bygone Minimal Syria neighborhood (at Rector and Washington, by means of the nineteen-forties) and the however thriving Koreatown (Broadway and West 30-next). Small plaques explain that both of those groups of immigrants initially arrived in the eighteen-eighties, two tracks converging. (Dishes $5-$26.50.) ♦