Cafe Nadery's Persian Rice Comes Fully Loaded


[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Persian jeweled rice is an exercise in stretching: take a basic grain, add more butter than you think wise, and a handful of dried fruits, nuts, and spices. Steam the mess with care and let the aromas mix and mingle. Then remove your pot's lid and take a step back at how good the whole thing smells.

Rare are the times that a rice dish, even one as large as this, is worth $18. When that rice stretches out raisins, orange peel, saffron, and scallions into something so much more than the some of its parts, it qualifies. Cafe Nadery's jeweled rice is big enough for a table of eight, and if it's on the specials board, order it to fill out the smart salads and the stews that make Persian cooking a world-class cuisine.

The rice isn't perfect. It's served atop strips of bone-dry chicken breast best ignored, or better yet, removed by request when you order. There's also a noticeable lack of tahdig, the crust that forms of at the base of Persian rice dishes analogous to a paella's soccarat. But the citrus and berry aroma is so enticing, the rice grains so fluffy and full of buttery warmth, that you may not care.