12 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011
An unassuming takeout counter which should not be underestimated. At Taste of Persian run by the kindest man Saeed Pourkay you can experience some of the most beautiful Persian Food in NYC. It’s a humble set up but the food is rich with flavors and obviously cooked with love. Experience classic Persian dishes made with traditional aromatic ingredients like rosewater, pomegranate molasses, saffron, fenugreek, black limes and basmati rice. The classic stews which are simmered for hours are served over basmati rice and are delicious. Ghormeh Sabzi (medley of gorgeous greens parsley, mint, cilantro, and fenugreek, along with dried limes and red beans). Gheimeh bademjan (delicate eggplant in a tomato based sauce with yellow lentils and Angus beef). And my personal favorite- Fesenjan (Crushed walnuts simmers in pomegranate molasses and rosewater). This heavenly combination is the perfect balance of sweet and sour and will make your palate dance. There is also the famous hearty soup called Ash Reshteh. An earthy and dense soup which is a combination of several kinds of beans, an explosion of herbs and long strands of spaghetti looking noodles. It’s topped off with caramelized onions, fried mint and a dollop of “kashk.” Saeed’s Ash Reshteh is fantastic and worth the hype. I recently had it at the annual Persian Parade in Madison Square Park and it was as great as always. See video coverage of my interview with Saeed here and stop in to try this humble, yet explosive flavor experience for yourself!
857 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019
Locally sourced tapas
I don’t dine in this particular part of town often, but was pleasantly surprised to discover new spots in Hell’s Kitchen. Kilo was more than a pleasant surprise because every bite was enjoyable.
The space is small, but the service and menu deliver in a big way. We had the Formaggio fresco which was a dreamy, creamy, and salty goodness cheese spread. The clover honey was a nice balance to the mildly salty cheese and the pistachios added a nice flavor profile while providing the right amount of textural contrast. Spread on the buttered homemade bread, we were off to a great start. The cheese paired well with the Sauvignon Blank (Loire, France), Francois Chidaine Clos de la Grange Touraine. It was earthy, grassy, clean and descent value (for restaurant wine bottle prices, that is).
The Lamb dish was another hit. Grilled well and juicy inside with a nice spiced char on the outside. It was served with grilled scallions, seasonal fiddleheads, a spicy red sauce and cooling Greek yogurt.
Though they are pretty, I’m not a big fan of fiddleheads. They were prepared nicely (grilled char with a whisper of anise) but I don’t care for the slightly slimy texture (similar to okra). I am however, romanced by what fiddle heads are: the furled fronds of a young fern, (say that quickly 10 times!) harvested for use as a vegetable. Left on the plant, each fiddlehead would unroll into a new frond. So the Persian Poet in my likes the idea of that, but I digress…
We also enjoyed the chicken which had a nice crispy skin. I’m not a fan of lots of salt but here the brininess of the salty skin worked. It was served with Fregola (Italian couscous), sweet basil, sun-dried tomato, and olives. A good balance of sweet, salty and savory.
181 Duane St, New York, NY 10013
In search of place for dinner before a show at the Tribeca Performing Arts center, we discovered this gem. Warm and cozy atmosphere, excellent service, unique wine list and feel good Southern Italian comfort food. Nice spot for a date, dinner with the family or friends. The classic MELANZANE alla PARMIGIANA (Eggplant Parmigiana) was lightly battered and tasty served with spaghetti. My sister ordered a special pappardelle pasta dish which was light n’ lovely served with shrimp, asparagus and other spring veggies in a garlic olive oil sauce. Our less adventurous dining companion had the POLLO al LIMONE (chicken breast with caper, lemon & white wine and he was pleased too. I had the pleasure of meeting the owner who is from the Puglia and Basilicata regions of Italy. The menu and wine selections are inspired by his hometown, like the wonderful Aglianico red wine I experienced for the first time. A medium to full bodied red with firm tannins, and a rustic earthy finish, primarily from the Basilicata and Campania regions of Italy.
The owner told me about the wine from his Southern Italy home (which he showed me on a map hanging in the front portion of the restaurant) and I enjoyed learning about this new wine and his charming story. I’ve continued exploring since. Aglianico is a black grape grown primarily in the southern regions of Italy. The vine originated in Greece and was brought to the south of Italy by Greek settlers. It also is a grape that seems to thrive in volcanic soils. I like this notion- beauty that rises from the ashes. Perhaps this is why my palate detected a whisper of nostalgia along with the notes of white pepper, dark fruit and dusty dried figs that… apparently or just poetically in my mind- grew out of the ashes of a volcano somewhere, somehow, many many years ago…