Persian cooking is distinctive with flavors of pomegranate, funegreek, preserved limes, barberries, sour cherries and nuts. Lots of lentils and rice, and plenty of eggplant and garlic are often part of the mix. Don’t forget the more familiar baklava with all varieties of native nuts between many layers of pastry sheets moistened with honey. Once I get the urge for these unique flavors I just gotta have ‘em.
So when my lunch date cancelled the other day, I kept my plan to eat at Parmy’s Persian Fusion in the East Village, NYC. A recent review in the NY Times got my motor going and I couldn’t shake it.
What I found at Parmy’s was a full on Persian menu and very little fusion. Maybe the gelato and sorbet on the menu were the fusion reference but never mind. What I loved was the easy menu clearly coded vegetarian, vegan and/or gluten free. The choices were laid out for me and I happily took the plunge.
The Chef, Mojgan Raoufi stayed in the kitchen while her brother, Amir, greeted me with a warm handshake and earnest eyes. After apologizing for certain menu items being sold out (their dinners are super busy, especially after the recent review) I focused on the vegetarian items with my helpful server.
The feast began when my eggplant appetizer arrived. Roasted and mashed to a creamy smoothness and surrounded by a ring of tangy yogurt, there was a sweet pile of caramelized onions topped with dried mint that could have kept me happy for a long while.
But I ordered a load of dishes, so I moved onto an order of Tahdig. I didn’t know that the prized crust of rice from the bottom of many Persian cooks’ pots could be had on its own. This slab of crunchy rice was adhered to a thin sheet of pita. Amir explained that it is done that way in the North and since these recipes are family recipes from their hometown of Tabriz, that’s what I was treated to.
The Tahdig (literally: bottom of the pot) was slighly sticky, crusty and crunchy . It formed the base for Vegetarian Gheymeh, a soupy lentil and artichoke stew of tomatoey sauce infused with saffron and pungent with preserved limes. It was unfamiliar and delicious.
The vegetarian Khoresh Fesenjan arrived in a shallow soup bowl of rich brown sauce, textured with finely ground walnuts and thickened with sweet potatoes. The reddish hue and distinctive tang from pomegranates was completely unfamiliar. The sauce was dotted with large chunks of mushrooms (the meat version is with boneless chicken) and is meant to be ladled over the generous plate of white/saffron rice. I loved it.
Kebabs are a mainstay of Persian cooking and there were two suitable for like-minded eaters: one vegetarian and one with salmon. I chose the salmon and was rewarded with six large chunks of perfectly cooked, moist chunks of salmon marinated in lemon and saffron. The plate is arranged with simple accompaniments of grilled onion and tomatoes with thinly sliced radishes alongside a generous mound of Basmati rice or couscous.
Desserts are simple, with one distinctly Persian honey glazed pastry and a house-made Almond Pudding. I was told that the pudding isn’t very Persian but that the chef loves it so she includes it in her menu. I’ll never say no to a soothing rice pudding punctuated by slivered almonds.
Strong Turkish coffee and a nibble of traditional baklava, oozing with honey and finely chopped pistachios between an infinite number of paper thin layers of pastry, left me pleased and sated.
I’ll return shortly to Parmy’s for another helping of golden crusty Tahdig. I’ve been told that this crusty prize can be the source of heated family battles in Persian homes. Head out to Parmy’s for your very own minus the family feud.
125 1st Avenue between 7th Street & Saint Marks Place, NYC
Lunch specials $9.95, M-F, 12-3
Lunch specials are $9.95 and all are served with basmati rice and a choice of red lentil soup or Shirazi salad, a basic chopped salad hardly worth mentioning.
Dinner is served 7 nights a week.