83 East Main Street
Elmsford, New York

5 Second Summary:
Price Range- Appetizers $5-6, Entrees $13-16 (at time of posting)
Ambiance- Casual and friendly with a spice market feel
Cuisine- Persian, halal, (no alcohol served)
Hits- Warm, doughy naan; savory rice dishes; delicious desserts that may be new to the American palate
Misses- Service can be friendly (or cool, depending upon waitstaff) but isn’t rapid-fire

After rave reviews from my sister, I convinced my work friend and dinner buddy to sample Shiraz’s ethnic fare.  Both newbies to Persian, our schema for the meal was something along the lines of Mediterannean or Turkish food.  While similar to those flavor profiles, Shiraz showed us the unique appeal of Persian cooking.

At 6 pm, I walked into an empty dining room.  The host, seated at the counter reading his newspaper, seemed neither impressed nor interested in my presence.  He motioned for me to take any seat, which I did.  After settling in and snapping a photo, I helped myself to a menu.  The restaurant later filled up— a later crowd, I suppose, composed largely of couples (generally older) and families (both local and international).

I ordered a shirazi salad appetizer: diced tomato, cucumber, red onion, parsley, olive oil, and fresh lime juice accompanied by warm, doughy naan (spelled nan on Shiraz’s menu).  Thinking this was a complimentary appetizer, we both dug in, not realizing until later that it was actually the salad.  This nan was different from Indian-style naan; it was not sliced and needed to be torn with the fingers for serving.  Air bubbles (like the ones on pizza that we fought over as kids) gave the nan an airy texture, although the surface was deliciously oily.

My friend ordered ash-e-reshteh soup.  Comprised of beans, peas, herbs, spinach, Persian noodles, dried yogurt (yes, dried yogurt), onions, and fresh garlic, this soup sounded great on the menu.  When it first arrived, the herbs had a pervasive odor I can only describe as “Catholic school hallway.”  When I was a child, my father taught in a Catholic school, and the scent of this soup immediately brought me back to the distinct odor of disinfectant-and-rubber-soled-nun’s-shoes in those gold-speckled hallways.  Hardly an olfactory association one would strive for, the soup didn’t seem promising.  Warily, I dipped my spoon in… and found that it tasted exactly like it smelled.

“Try it again,” my friend urged.  “It’s an acquired taste.”

Admittedly, the second taste was better than the first.  Although the parts were familiar, the whole came together in much-unanticipated way.  The herb blend (and the dried yogurt!) was foreign to both of us, but it tasted vaguely of turmeric… maybe coriander and dill?

For dinner, I had the koobideh kabab, what promised (according to the menu) to be a tantalizing spice mixture seasoning two skewers of meat accompanied by grilled tomatoes.  I opted for saffron rice with berries after consulting the formerly disinterested host (turned waiter) for a recommendation.  Tempted to choose a dill and fava bean rice that sounded fabulous, he assured me -quite rightly- that the berries would better complement my meal, whereas the dill and fava bean went better with lamb.  After he said it, I could’ve slapped myself in the head.  Of course.

A bit like the refashioned meat served in gyros (what my friend’s chef husband calls “chicken baloney” or “lamb baloney” accordingly), the kabobs were strongly seasoned meat shaped into two long, undulating sticks.  I had expected kebabs, chunks of meat on skewers, but this form was enjoyable too.  I did suffer a bit of indigestion later, but the meat was tasty.  The roasted tomatoes were perfume-y but delicious, and the saffron rice was delectable.  Dotted with tart cranberries, it was a lovely touch of sweet with the savory.

For dessert, we opted to share pallodeh, frozen rice noodles scented and flavored with rosewater and served with a handled mug of cherry sauce and wedges of fresh lime.  The dessert was sweet but not overly so… not quite like ice cream, but with decidedly pleasant bite and texture given the shape of the frozen noodles.  The rosewater was unique, fragrant, and smooth in taste.  Rosewater isn’t for everyone, but I found it exceptional alone, highlighted with the cherry sauce, and particularly with just a squeeze of fresh lime.

The waiter who recommended our dessert was welcoming, friendly, and clearly interested in sharing his cultural cuisine with us.  He urged us to try this unique Persian dessert, and we weren’t disappointed.

Shiraz piqued my curiosity, and there were definitely several other menu items I was eager to try.  Would I return? Absolutely.  Between the neat retail market next door and the restaurant, I plan to return in the near future.

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