Zamir Iosepovici, the owner of Taiim Falafel Shack in Hastings varied his motto just slightly when he opened the new Taiim Wine Cellar, on Boniface Circle in Scarsdale, last month. Whereas in Hastings they say, “Keep calm and eat falafel”, the Scarsdale variation is, “Keep calm and drink wine.” It is a small difference, a nod to the more upscale nature of the Scarsdale location as well as an acknowledgment of a focus on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean wines. However, the overriding philosophy remains the same. Zamir, along with his partners, Erion Hasko, Altin Sinani and Chris Korpi, strive to create a relaxing atmosphere, a calm haven where the stresses and pressures of daily life can melt away.
Indeed, the moment you enter you feel transported. Moroccan fixtures, in alternating globe and teardrop shapes hang from the ceiling in varying heights, casting soft light. This aesthetic is carried on behind the handsome bar where the impressions of onion domes, a striking feature popular in Middle Eastern and Byzantine architecture, are similarly softly lit. An eye grabbing copper piped wine rack, set in a solid wood frame, climbs the full height of one wall. The décor is all the more impressive when you consider that it is all custom built. Those who recall that the space formerly housed Vaccaro’s Shoe Repair for nearly eighty years will be amazed at the transformation.
The wine list, featuring offerings from Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Greece and Portugal will be constantly updated according to Iosepovici. This will ensure that the wines will be interesting not just due to their countries of origin but because they will be ever changing. Wines are not the only interesting beverages to choose from. Possessing a full liquor license, Taiim boasts an intriguing array of Middle Eastern infused cocktails. The Fiery Mary, a play on the classic Bloody Mary, cleverly switches the Tunisian spice paste Harissa, also a classic Israeli falafel topping, for Tabasco sauce. The Taiim-tini mixes date infused vodka, blended halva and bitters, and Liquid Baklava combines the same date infused vodka with Amaretto and lemon zest for a sweet treat.
Though the motto stresses the wine and the owners beam with pride when discussing the wine list, food at Taiim is, by no means, an afterthought. In fact, Taiim’s expansion to Scarsdale was no arbitrary decision. They were recruited to open in the village by Scarsdale Chamber of Commerce President Carolyn Stevens based on the strength of the food at the Hastings location. The vegetarian menu contains a large variety of reasonably priced offerings. Though hummus is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, Taiim has no less than eleven interesting variations on the classic chickpea and tahini version, including preserved lemon, roasted garlic and tomato, edamame and, interestingly, truffle oil. Cheese platters can include the Cypriot goat and sheep’s milk Halloumi, Labneh, a Lebanese strained yogurt cheese, a sheeps milk cheese from the island of Sardinia, as well as others from France and Spain. Salads and side dishes, such as Tabbuleh, Fattoush and Babaganouj, all served with pita, can provide a perfect little bite as you sip your wine or cocktail and, reasonably priced between $6 and $9.00, you can allow yourself to try a few. If you’re hungry for something more substantial the menu features numerous sandwiches options. Taiim’s take on the classic grilled cheese utilizes Halloumi’s high melting point by grilling it and serving it with tomatoes and olive tapenade. Another, called The Sabich, combines classic Middle Eastern ingredients such as fried eggplant, hummus, simmered tomatoes and garlic, to stellar results. Though all the options are vegetarian, the use of ‘meaty’ ingredients such as cauliflower, roasted Portobello mushroom and butternut squash should satisfy even the most devout carnivore.
All of the furnishings, including the comfortable ottomans, can be moved so the room can be transformed for functions including wine tastings and private parties. In fact, Taiim is looking forward to partnering with the venerable Scarsdale institution Zachy’s on such a wine tasting. This is part of Team Taiim’s desire to be community spirited. In that spirit, a framed photo of the aforementioned Vaccaro’s will grace one wall, respecting the history of the space, and one of the menu’s desserts comes from neighbor Imagine Candy on Harwood Court. Taiim doesn’t just want to be in Scarsdale, they want to be a part of Scarsdale. Off to a great start, they should be a welcome addition to the village.