This week, Jonathan Gold heads to Agoura Hills to review what may well be the only Kurdish restaurant in the western United States, Niroj Kurdish Cuisine. While there’s some controversy as to what exactly Kurdish fare is, chef and owner Luqman Barwari from Mosul, Iraq characterizes the cuisine as having “more to do with mild spices and fresh herbs and a sense of who we are than it does with any one ingredient.”
That translates into a menu with “a vague Persian bent:”
If you order cold mezze, you will recognize the hesandin as a close analogue to muhammara, a smooth, slightly spicy dip made with walnuts, red peppers and a touch of sweet pomegranate molasses, and the piyas as a pleasant if mild tabbouleh. The wood-baked casserole mele gej, bafflingly translated as “Dizzy Clergy’’ on the menu, turns out to be the Kurdish version of the Turkish imam bayildi — eggplant, peppers and tomatoes cooked until they nearly collapse into a juicy purée, a dish so famously delicious that it was said to make a cleric reel with pleasure. [LAT]
The Goldster describes the fare as “restrained in its spicing, easy on salt, tending toward the supple rather than the crisp,” which results in some hits and misses:
Sometimes, as with the braised lamb tawe, this is a fault. Sometimes, as with the house’s namesake Niroj kebab, it is just right — a ground mixture of beef and lamb wrapped around a bit of spinach and pomegranate molasses before it is grilled, then splashed with a little yogurt. [LAT]
J. Gold concludes by recommending Niroj’s “kunefe —– melted cheese crowned with a crisp, syrup-sweetened disk of pastry.” Sounds like a serious find.