Student Foodie: Semsom’s Fresh Middle Eastern Food Will Soon Become Your Favorite Summer Spot

With Halal carts on every corner and hundreds of Middle Eastern restaurants all over the city it didn’t seem like we needed another one but Semsom, located at 2 Astor place, serves up fresh twists on old favorites that will have you coming back again and again.

The fast-casual Middle Eastern eatery was opened by two creative sisters Christine and Carine about a year ago but is already an institution in the Middle East with locations in Lebanon, Oman, Ksa, Kuwait and an upcoming location in Dubai. Already, a successful businesswoman- Christine is responsible for bringing Dunkin Donuts to the Middle East and was named Best Businesswoman in the Middle East in 2011- Christine’s dream was to share her passion for Lebanese food with the world.

Sisters Carine and Christine at Semsom's grand opening. Photo courtesy of Semsom.

Sisters Carine and Christine at Semsom’s grand opening. Photo courtesy of Semsom.

Walking into Semsom Eatery will immediately transport you to a calm, cool Middle Eastern villa. The restaurant is clean and airy with turquoise accents and you almost expect a seaside breeze to hit you. It’s clear that the concept is to make you feel at ease and at home, with comfortable and ample seating and personalized touches. The wallpaper is a dynamic photo of a friend of the two sisters in their father’s old car. The restaurant sells scrumptious French treats by Michel et Augustin that Carine loved when she lived in France and the recipes of Semsom’s delicious offerings are based on family recipes that the sisters loved to devour as children. An upcoming location in the Financial District will even have the window shutters from Christine and Carine’s childhood home.

The concept is simple and streamlined- walk up to the counter and choose either a bowl or a wrap, the bowl is recommended because it allows you to taste each dish individually, and you definitely will want to capture each of the unique flavors. You can choose lettuce or rice as your base (or half and half). Then, choose between two chicken dishes, two meat dishes and two vegetarian options. The Taouk chicken- simmered in vinegar tomato sauce and paprika is tangy, moist and flavorful. One of the vegetarian options- the wild thyme cauliflower is oven roasted with sumac and dried thyme, earthy and filling it will have even non-vegetarians salivating.

Semsom's wholesome Middle Eastern food will have you salivating. Photo by Tamar Lapin

Semsom’s wholesome Middle Eastern food will have you salivating. Photo by Tamar Lapin

You can then add two flavors such as pickled mushrooms or cabbage, tahini carrots, minted yoghurt, hummus or sweet and sour eggplant. The eggplant is a definite hit, made with pomegranate molasses it has an interesting zesty taste with sweet undertones. But the definite standout on the bowl is the hummus which is made with fresh chickpeas (never canned!) and soaked in water overnight. Lea Ghandour, Carine’s friend who heads marketing for the NYC branches tells me that the hummus, “takes 12 hours to prepare and two minutes to devour.” And she’s right! Using fresh chickpeas makes the hummus ultra creamy and smooth. You can slather it on any of the dishes or eat it by the forkful. Make sure to top your bowl with some mint leaves for an even fresher accent.

Tamar trying some delicious vegan soft serve at Semsom.

It’s all affordable too! Prices range from $7.00 to $8.50 for wraps and from $8.00 to $11 for bowls.

The food is simple, bright and colorful and all seasonal and locally sourced. The beef comes from New York institution Pat LaFrieda and the chicken is free-range and antibiotic free, all halal. Everything is flavorful and evenly spiced with an air of simplicity that’ll make you want to try to recreate the recipes at home. And you can- the owner’s thinking ahead set aside a corner of the restaurant- a souk of sorts which sells spices used in the recipes: turmeric, sumac and zaatar. You can also buy some of the sisters’ favorite cookbooks, handmade soaps, and cute, colorful clay cups.

In a rush? Grab one of Semsom’s readymade seasonal salads to go like the watermelon feta salad or indulge with a serving of sriracha hummus and some healthy pita chips. One of their new offerings, the vegan soft-serve is also a definite must-try. It comes in flavors like chocolate halva and frozen mhalabiyeh (rose and orange blossom water). Get some candied chick peas to sprinkle on top and you are set.

by Tamar Lapin

For an extra discount on Middle Eastern food like you’ve never tasted try the Campus Clipper coupon below:



For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the NYC Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.  
At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful ebooks, we give them a platform to teach others. Follow each new blog post to read a chapter of our various books and to learn how the Campus Clipper can help you follow your dreams!
Check our website for more student savings on food and services and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during last year’s Welcome Week.
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