The scope of Persian food is as wide and varied as the region from which it originates. The center of the former Persian Empire, Iran, neighbors Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, the Arab states and countries from the former Soviet Union. Iran’s central location made it a heavily trafficked country on the ancient Silk Road trade route and even the Greeks conquered their way through at one point.
With all of that culture moving in and out of the country, it is no wonder why Persian cuisine reaches outside the Iranian border, into the Mediterranean and beyond.
Sufiya’s Grill opened in East Meadow more than three years ago and in that time, it has garnered a reputation for thrilling, homemade dishes prepared with spice blends and ingredients that surprise eaters and arouse their palates. It is a horizon-expanding dining experience in a relaxed atmosphere with generous hosts and a gracious staff.
The menu at Sufiya’s is dotted with coveted ingredients from Iran, including walnuts, almonds, pistachios, mint, pomegranates and saffron, which is brought in directly from Iran, as only Spanish saffron is available at most American markets. When ordering appetizers, the best option is to go for the combination plate, which allows eaters to order any three dishes from the list.
Options include kashkeh badenjan, a chunky eggplant dip in tomato sauce; falafel, hummus and sambuseh, crisp Iranian dumplings filled with crushed chickpeas and vegetables. The sambuseh’s creamy interior shares some of the flavors of the falafel, but the dumpling delivery method makes it a standout appetizer. It is served with Sufiya’s green dipping sauce, a brightly flavored mix of cilantro, parsley, jalapeño, crushed walnuts and white vinegar.
Entrées at Sufiya, which translates to “mystic” from Urdu, begin with a lesson in Persian rice. Relegated to the role of a side dish in this country, Persian rice is often simply prepared with butter and saffron, but it can also be married with dynamic ingredients and transformed into the meal’s centerpiece. There’s white and brown basmati rice, but true long-grain enlightenment lies in Sufiya’s cherry rice and barberry rice, both featuring varying levels of luscious sourness, a staple in the Iranian flavor palate.
As for the main dish, Sufiya’s staff recommends pairing grilled meats together in the Sultani combination platters. Options include kubideh kebab, skewers of seasoned ground beef and lamb; barg kebab, juicy steak tenderloin; jujeh kebab, pieces of cornish game hen marinated with lemon and saffron; and more. As with their rice, Sufiya’s is serious about meat preparation. All meats are marinated a day ahead for maximum flavor absorption—the result is succulent, tender and juicy.
The restaurant also offers plenty of seafood and vegetarian dishes, along with classic Persian stews, salads and sandwiches. But make sure to leave room for dessert, as the Persian ice cream is set apart from other culinary confections with creamy, saffron-flavored ice cream and pistachios, made in house everyday.
Sufiya’s Grill, which will open a second location in Merrick this summer, is a departure from the usual dining experience—an alluring meal prepared with exotic flair.
Sufiya’s Grill, 2320 Hempstead Tpke.; 516-644-2200; www.sufiyasgrill.com.