Kebob and Sour Cherries at Ravagh Persian Grill

November 12, 2009

Ravagh Persian Grill in Murray Hill – one of two Persian restaurants that Eli Parviz recommended after we got lost during our quest for his favorite Colombian food – is more elegant than most of the places where I wind up on the taxi adventures.

When I walked into the dining room the day after my ride with the cabbie who was once a chemist – with my hair going in ten directions and my umbrella turned inside out – I felt like my rainstorm disarray didn’t belong.

The lights were dimmed to flatter, brick was exposed, tablecloths were linen, and a rainbow of New York faces filled the room. A busser took one look at me and led me to a table in the back next to a poster of Persepolis.

Eli said that he usually orders kebob when he goes to Ravagh, which he considers to be one of the better Persian spots in the city (It’s also the flagship location of a mini Persian restaurant chain – the others are in the Upper East Side and in New Jersey).

But the cabbie had warned me not to get my hopes up. To his taste, the food at Persian restaurants in New York is basically the same – and the meat in the U.S. can’t compare to what he remembers eating in Tehran.

I remembered the (carnivorous) nostalgia in his voice as I scanned the span of 13 kebobs at the center of the menu, which ranged from Angus sirloin to chicken to lamb chops (all of them except the combination kebob are less than $15).

Finally, I zeroed in on the Jujeh kebob: bone-in Cornish hen marinated in lemon and saffron ($11). For an extra $3, I upgraded from plain basmati to basmati rice with sour cherries.

While I worked my way to the bottom of a bowl of lentil soup that came with my lunch (drab tasting until I added a teaspoon of sumac from the shaker on the table), the fellow at the table next door was telling his lunch companion about his first time doing Hallowe’en in drag (“Now I understand how women feel when they wear skirts in the cold. And walking around in high heels? Forget it!”).

I tuned out the bygone drag queen when an unsmiling server delivered my Cornish hen. It was grilled just right, moist enough to cut with a butter knife. I definitely tasted lemon, but the saffron that had inspired me to order it was hard to find. (What did I expect for $11? Most saffron in the West retails for about $1,000 a pound.)

Meanwhile, I could’ve eaten a whole bowl of the sour cherries in the rice by themselves (or on top of some good ricotta with roasted pistachios and a little lavender honey).

The cherries were part of the reason I skipped the sweet course – that and the fact that Ravagh gets all of its desserts pre-made from an Italian company called Bindi.

Instead, I snuck around the corner to Stumptown for a cafe macchiato and asked myself the same question I always ask when I’m trying to figure out how I feel about a restaurant: would I go back?

Yes. If I were craving a well-cooked, straightforward, generous plate of kebob, I would go back to Ravagh – but I’d try to tear myself away from the sour cherries and order the basmati with barberries, currants and saffron that the bygone drag queen was raving about.

Ravagh Persian Grill

11 E. 30th St. (between 5th Ave. & Madison) – Murray Hill
Tel. 212-696-0300
Open: 7 days, 11am-11pm
Credit cards accepted
Appetizers: $3.50-6.50 – Mains: $10-30 (Note: these are lunchtime prices – at dinner, everything goes up $1-2)

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