After my first taste of Taste of Persia NYC at 2012's Union Square Holiday Market, I was pleased but assumed my experience would be a one-time thing. The man behind those steaming pots of soup was too nice, I thought, his food too clean and homemade-tasting, to make it in a dining culture where lines form at 8 a.m. on a Saturday for a taste of ground beef between two nests of griddled noodles.
Happily I was wrong. In the past couple months I kept hearing whispers from Middle Eastern food devotees about Saeed Pourkay's Persian cooking lodged in the corner of a Flatiron pizzeria. Then he received some glowing press. So here's hoping Taste of Persia NYC becomes the city's ambassador to homestyle Persian cuisine, a vacant position we'd do well to fill. The food certainly merits the title.
Taste of Persia NYC is a small operation. Some steam tables hold four or five stewed or braised dishes a day (dishes rotate frequently) to be served over delicate long grain rice in an unglamorous takeout container. Ask for samples and you can try all the day's offerings before you commit to a $12 portion, though you can mix and match two different dishes to a single order.
One visit turned up a Khoresht-e Beh, tender nubbins of beef simmered with quince, that jumped back and forth between sweet and tangy before settling on savory. Ghaymeh, another beef stew paired with split peas, was more subtle, but layered with sweet spices that added surprising depth.
Persian food excels at greens, often stewed or simmered until intensely concentrated but not, miraculously, into mushy submission. Here they don't disappoint: a little bitter, a little sour, with sweet starchy kidney beans for balance. Chard is similarly done well, with sweet and sour beef standing in place of the beans.
Taste of Persia NYC's food is far more glamorous than its setting—Pizza Paradise pizzeria leaves much to be desired. But it's worth a trip, for takeout, too, as the stews keep well. Here's hoping Pourkay finds a more permanent fixture befitting of his ambassadorial role.