Monday, April 2, 2012

The beauty that is central asian food!

Okay so I admit that Mid-eastern and the types is becoming my favorite cuisine, and I have tried Mediterranean and Ethiopian before, so by now I have a decent clue what to order and what to expect in middle eastern cuisine. This time it was Persian food. The place was a small restaurant called Mirage in Northern Atlanta.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't have expected to find something so good so close to my place but Mirage really stands out. I was Googling for new cuisines to try, and ran into this place, which incidentally is voted one of the top 10 vegetarian restaurants to eat in Atlanta by some website (don't recollect the name now). So I decided to see what the fuss was all about.

The ambience to start with is peaceful and quiet. Being a Sunday night it probably may be a low rush hour, but it surely is not a noisy place. Pretty causal environment with soft Persian music in the background. If you have sat at the back of a Persian guy's taxi this music will change your stereotype about them. ;-)

We, a group of a five, were pleasantly greeted by the manager herself, which was a refresher from the typical greetings we get in American restaurants... the waitress was prompt to provide us the menus and knew the right time to come back to us to take the orders, not too early and not too late either. Oh, and did I mention that the waiters and waitresses were too edible(yeah!) to look at?!

The menu was pretty vast and there was a wide range of options to choose from. Especially for vegetarians, because these people know what Indians mean by vegetarian (no chicken and eggs either) so if you are a hard core veggie, you cannot go wrong with ordering here. I asked for a hummus; it came with their flatbread of course. I must say that this was the best hummus I have ever had. Not too runny and not too grainy either. Just the right amount of oil and sufficient spice in it to go with the bread. And the quantity of bread to go with the hummus was VERY generous, it was the size of an 8 slice medium sized pizza! The acompaniments with the food were, a tad bit odd. I am not aware if a complimentary plate of mint leaves, cottage cheese (rather paneer), red onions, butter, and walnuts tossed in olive oil are typical Persian. But they did go well with everything we had.

The main course was Tahdig, a dish of crispy basmati rice covered with what they called vegetable stew. But in fact this was more like a layer of spicy chana dal cooked in a sour base and topped with lime pickle. Sounds very toor-ki-daal-and-chawal, doesn't it? And yes, it was! It was unique yet reminded one of homemade Indian dal-rice. A good combination of novelty and the comfort of familiar food at the same time.

The chicken sheesh kabab my finicky friend (yes, someone who swore by spicy Indian food) ordered was reasonably well received by him, as he suggested that the chicken was soft and looked delectable but was a little on the sour end. And that's a concern I too had, and I guess these people could as well afford to cut down on the sourness quotient in nearly all their food.

Surprisingly, all the food was light on the stomach but at the same time it was in the perfectly huge quantity to make a person feel full yet light at the end of it. But no wait, the dessert still awaits! There was again just the right place in my elastic tummy to devour some of it, and this time I went the conventional way and chose the famous Baklawa. And thankfully I didn't go wrong being conventional. Sugary, caramel-y, full of ground walnut and pistachioes with multiple layers of (again!) just the right amount of sweetness to melt in your mouth. So much so, that I decided to take one home for the next day!

The last thing was - of course the bill. 5 people in $45. - that's $9 per head for a wholesome stomach-filling meal which included starters, main course, AND dessert. I'd call it a very, very good deal.

All in all, everything about the place and the food was just right. Good ambeince, great food, prompt service, and fantastic price. Both the cuisine and the place are worth trying. I would positively return to Mirage, and definitely devour Persian again!

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