For the past six years, Café Muscat, located on Union Turnpike, in Fresh Meadows, Queens, has become a very popular spot in this particularly demanding neighborhood. You will not find bagels, cream cheese and lox on the menu of this restaurant.
Chef-owner Alon Assayag has reinvented the traditional and steers away from the usual dairy fare. He routinely triumphs in finding unique flavors and combinations that turn ordinary cuisine into innovative dishes.
Assayag, who has a French-Moroccan background, began his career in the food industry at age 13 in Israel. Although he has no formal training, his experiences throughout the years took him to a hotel in Eilat and finally to a place of his own in New York. He opened Café Muscat with partner Joseph Biton.
Of course, to truly appreciate the cuisine, one must eat it, and therein lies one of the most enjoyable tasks of this reviewer.
From the very first glance at the menu, my dinner partner and I knew we were in for a treat. After studying the list of appetizers, we decided to begin the meal with the avocado eggroll and the Bulgarian eggplant. While we waited for the appetizers to arrive we enjoyed the warm, crusty loaves of bread served with an herb infused spread.
When I bit into the avocado eggroll, I was pleasantly surprised by the complexity of flavors. The expertly seasoned avocado, feta cheese and spices wrapped in a crispy eggroll shell merged together in every bite. The Bulgarian eggplant, which is prepared with cream sauce, mushroom, olives and cheese, was extremely tasty, but a bit too rich for my taste.
Next came our soup orders. I truly enjoyed the delicate blend of flavors in the butternut squash soup, prepared with garden fresh squash and aromatic spices. My companion, who chose the French onion soup topped with savory melted cheese, finished every last spoonful.
With the enduring popularity of sushi, it’s no wonder that the menu features such a large selection. We tasted the Fire Roll, a spicy tuna tempura with onion and jalapeno, which did not need the addition of soy sauce or condiment, since it was extremely flavorful on its own. Equally as impressive was the Captain Crunch tempura roll, a blend of salmon, imitation crab, avocado and cucumber. The sushi is so meticulously prepared and presented it intrigues the eye as well as satisfying the palate.
The dish of the night, however, was the superb fresh tuna fillet entrée, complemented by creamy whipped potatoes and steamed broccoli. I was very pleased with my choice, but after stealing a taste of the Atlantic sole that my companion ordered, I wanted to start all over again. The delectable fish, prepared in a butter sauce, was crisp on the outside and flaky on the inside.
When it comes to desserts, Café Muscat rises to the occasion. Although we were quite full by this time, we couldn’t pass up the luscious cheesecake and mouth watering French chocolate mousse. Assayag pointed out that the cakes are imported from Israel.
According to Assayag, one of the most popular choices on the menu is the Oreganatto salad. “These salads are large enough to be a main dish,” he comments. “They come topped with hot vegetables such as sweet potato, or asparagus. Many people never heard of these salads before, but when they taste it, they are very pleased.”
Once you eat in a dairy restaurant like Cafe Muscat, where do you go from there? There is pretty much something to suit every appetite. The menu includes several breakfast and brunch specials, sandwiches, wraps, panini toasts, salads, pastas, stir-fried dishes, an impressive selection of hot and cold drinks, as well as a children’s menu.
Café Muscat, located at 178-07 Union Turnpike, is under the supervision of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens. They open at 9:00 a.m. until midnight, Sunday-Thursday; Friday they close three hours before Shabbos and then reopen Saturday night, two hours after Shabbos.