Wednesday, September 14, 2005
The belly dancer I saw was balancing a sword on her head. Yes I know you can balance a sword on your head, too. It wasn't that way. She was balancing it by the blade's sharp edge. As in, I had a slight fear of death at my table.
Is the food terribly authentic? I'm not too sure; I am unlucky enough to still not have had home-cooked food relating to this region... nor did I actually eat anything regional the one time I was actually IN the Middle East (Dubai).. (they gave me a free sandwich at the airport). But I do know this: the place is BYOB. (Beer, wine, whatever). I doubt you'll see that too often in the Middle East. I've also heard whisperings.. where from I don't know... that this claims to be a Turkish place.
Small tangent: I'm looking for a term that basically means "The Middle East and North Africa" that (1) is not "The Arab World" and (2) isn't relative to another place in the world (i.e. "middle east" is east only of the things west of it). Suggestions anyone? Include Turkey? Maybe... Sigh.
Anyway, I've been to Ararat probably about 3 times now. The first time I went there, I was a meat-eater extraordinaire. Unfortunately, I have no idea what I ordered, except that i thought it was ok. The second time, I was vegan. Still don't remember what I ordered.. except I remember vegetables on top of a pita. It was pretty good. Now for this latest visit, I'm just a normal vegetarian. This was 2 weeks ago. I went with a group of about 10 people, and we pigged out. Majorly. We were all oinking at the end. The BYOB (2 bottles of wine in this case) probably helped. So... breaking it down:
Pita: Pretty tasty. Nice and hot, too, in my mouth. Yeah.. this was ideal for scooping up the hummus and baba ganouj. Incomparably better than the (bwahaha) "naan" trianglets at Cosmic Cafe. This was whole, though, not cut into pieces and destroyed.
Hummus: Nothing completes a nice Middle Eastern meal like some awesome hummus. Oh yeah.. This was good stuff, though I still found the one at Marakesh Cafe and Grill way better. This is also better than the hummus made by Tom's Tabooley. I respect them and all... but.. yeah. All of these of course put to shame various hummuses (hummi?) all over the city, found in hummus sandwiches and whatnot. All right, I had hummus in New York. It was insanity... (in a good way). This wasn't quite that good.... but I liked it here anyway. It was on par with the one at Alborz Persian Cuisine, I thought.
Baba Ganouj: Ok... interesting. Sweeter than I expected.. Certainly more than the one at Marakesh, which I really like. Still parsing this. Maybe in a few weeks, my brain will have properly figured this out. Not that it was bad! Just not what I expected.
Dolmeh Felfel: Basically this was something like a the grape leaf dolmas I'm used to, except they were stuffed green bell peppers. The stuffing was a highly yummy mixture of rice, nuts (walnuts, maybe?), and various spices. Rounding out the dish, there was bulgar wheat (basically seemed like tabouleh), roasted veggies (*magnificent*. Zucchinis, tomatoes, red/green peppers, onions, with equally-magnificent brown mystery powder on all of these)... hmm what else? Oh yeah: maust museer (reminiscent of Indian raita), and some sort of spicy tahini sauce. ALL of this was great.
Other people ordered stuff that also looked, smelled, *and* sounded good (sizzling chicken, etc).. I definitely sat next to the right people. Of course, the BYOB could have just been causing me to hear food wailing when in fact it was silent and happy with itself.
Halva: You either love halva, or you don't. This style of halva is heavy on the sesame flavor, and sour-ish in the way that I like. Many people invariably hate it. But not me.... I'll take this kind of halva any day... 24 hours straight, if necessary. The one here was no exception.
Apricot Fruit Cake Thingie: Huh? I don't really care for apricots all that much... but I tried this anyway. But... I didn't detect any apricot flavor. Who knows what I was smoking. The point is: this didn't seem very special.
In conclusion... Ararat is totally a winner, though I still like the more no-frills Marakesh better. Both way better than Alborz, for sure.. at least for vegetarians. So: (1) I believe 8 out 10 at the table liked their food, obviously including me. (2) The waitress gave us free hummus and baba ganouj because we were a large group. (3) This is a *local* restaurant.. There's only one of them. (4) The menu has 5 vegetarian entrees.... and they all look *really* good. (5) I must reiterate: BYOB!!!!!!
You may want to make a reservation.
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