Chef Alon Shaya's Saba (5757 Magazine St., 504-324-7770) is serving Persian food to kick off a series of special menus of cuisines from the Middle East. The Persian menu is inspired by dishes from Iran’s northern mountain regions and southern coastal towns.
Persian food has been in the spotlight recently due in part to celebrity chef and cookbook author Samin Nosrat, author of “Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking,” exploring her family’s traditional cuisine. In May, The New York Times published “Samin Nosrat’s 10 Essential Persian Recipes,” offering a primer on Persian cooking.
Many New Orleans restaurants serve Middle Eastern food from countries including Lebanon and Israel, as well as Iraq (Shawarma-On-the-Go) and Egypt (Torshi at St. Roch Market), but Persian food has been largely absent.
“That’s why we are delving into it,” says Saba chef de cuisine Cara Peterson. “People lump it into, ‘Oh, it’s Middle Eastern food,’ without seeing the geographic eccentricities of the cuisine. I hope we are able to encapsulate some of the favorites, some things people aren’t familiar with.”
The menu includes classic Persian dishes like jeweled rice, the traditional eggplant stew bademjan and ghotab, a fried almond cake with cardamom and rose.
Persian food’s signature flavors include sour notes playing a significant role. One of the ingredients Saba will showcase is Persian lime, a fermented lime with a smoky, sweet quality. The kitchen will use it in a vinaigrette served with Louisiana snapper. Peterson also will highlight the floral notes of cardamom.
Ingredients will change seasonally, and menus will showcase a new dish each week. The Persian menu will be available at dinner, in addition to the regular menu, and can be tailored to parties of two or more.
Optional wine pairings predominantly come from Lebanon, Corsica and Morocco, and Saba’s bar is creating menu-specific cocktails as well as tea service. The menu costs $65 per person, and wine pairings are $35 per person.
Persian menus will be available through the end of the year, and then Saba will focus on another cuisine.
“It’s an opportunity to do that deeper dive,” Peterson says. “The modern Israeli food we serve is so varied – with influences from Italy, South Africa and so many more – we figured we’d start from the Far East and work our way back.”