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Review: Sufi's

Persian cuisine whirls into South Buckhead

At its best, Persian food is one of those cuisines that can totally re-jigger your palate. Food becomes new again; flavors you had relegated to minor roles in the theater of taste become main characters, full of intrigue and delicious malice. Walnuts rise above their station as provider of crunch to Toll House cookies and foil to apples — they thicken sauce, they tame sweetness, they put bitter in a new light, a dusky, sexy hue. Pomegranate shows its savory wiles. Fenugreek loses and then regains its mystery, going from "huh?" to "oh!" to "hmmm."

Historically in Atlanta, you've had to travel to experience Persian food, both the sublime and the mediocre. While the city has a robust Iranian population, the restaurants serving that population have traditionally been OTP, mainly in Sandy Springs but also in Marietta and beyond. Now Sufi's has opened in South Buckhead, and the world of Persian flavors takes a step toward the mainstream.

At Sufi's, revelations are possible, although not guaranteed. Flanked by the dining room's deep red brocade walls and paintings of whirling dervishes, and seated under a ceiling of white fabric, you might encounter some form of culinary enlightenment. Or you may only get partway there.

After you're served the traditional warm flatbread with a plate of olives, walnuts, butter, a feta-like fresh white cheese, radishes, cucumbers and herbs, there are a couple of appetizers that shouldn't be missed on the road to taste bud paradise. In the dolmeh, which so often disappoint with bland rice wrapped in sour grape leaves, your faith ought to be restored. Piping hot and sitting on a bed of yogurt, these classic snacks contain not only rice but also yellow split peas, chives, tarragon and an achingly sweet/tart pomegranate sauce that changes the role of the dish from bit-part to lead performer.

The other star on the appetizer list is the kashk bademjan, a caramelized eggplant goop, brought to its thick creamy texture by the addition of yogurt whey. Eggplant often strikes me as having more narcotic qualities (as in, I need my fix) than other vegetables, and this dip is perhaps its most dangerously enslaving incarnation — rich, sweet, tangy and luxurious. Other appetizer dips have their share of flavor and comfort — the "Sufi's special," bringing a spicy tang to its eggplant, tomato and chickpea contents, the hummus respectable and familiar.

On these blustery winter days, a bowl of ash joe soup warms and soothes, rife with mint and tarragon in a slurry of barley, lentils and red beans. As with the majority of the menu at Sufi's, I've had superior versions of this soup elsewhere, but the dish's fried shallots and mixture of acid tang and creamy base is nonetheless gratifying.

The menu has a large selection of kabobs, served over the fluffy, flavorful basmati rice. The best is the whole Cornish hen, hacked into manageable pieces and imbued with a lemony marinade. Other meats are tender and appetizing, although I found the rack of lamb slightly overcooked.

While kabobs are an important part of Persian cuisine, the stews have always had my heart, and this is an area where Sufi's delivers tasty versions but nothing illuminating. Fesenjoon, the stew of pomegranate and walnuts that can sometimes be a wicked dance between bitter, sweet and savory, is a pleasant dish of meat cooked in a brown, sweetish sauce. Likewise, ghormeh sabzi, a stew that features the alluringly strange fenugreek, is less bitter, weird and ultimately seductive than other versions I've had. Very little about Sufi's cooking seems dumbed-down for us intown eaters, but the stews feint a little to the safe side.

Persian dining rooms are often fancy, even when home-style cooking is served under the billowing fabrics, and Sufi's is no different. Which isn't to say the restaurant is stuffy or uncomfortable, just that the aim is for class, and the valet parking, black-clad waiters and formal service support that aim. As with many late-year openings, the ownership decided it was not worth paying a full year's fee to have a liquor license for a few weeks, so the booze won't start flowing until Jan. 1, at which time a full bar and beer and wine list will be available.

Sufi's may not offer all the epiphanies of certain OTP Persian restaurants, but it gives us a taste of that magic. For intowners, a little bit of culinary mysticism so close to home is welcome revelation indeed.



More By This Writer

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Article

Monday March 12, 2012 02:31 pm EDT

  • James Camp
  • Double Zero Napoletana

Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant Tue., March 13, 7 p.m. Bushmills Whiskey Tasting. Fadó and radio host Rich Sullivan of 92.9 davefm are hosting a whiskey tasting. $39.95 covers a tasting of five whiskeys and six dishes. Master of Whisky Kevin Mulcahy of Diageo will be on hand to lead guests through the tasting and explain each whiskey to attendees. 20...

| more...
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*wikimedia commons
*He stank
What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if Duke beats FSU in the second semifinal game today, that is - at half time it's looking far from guaranteed with FSU up 33-31). State had a lead as large as 7 points early in the second half, but Carolina came back to tie it up. It stayed that way right down to the buzzer, with UNC up by 2 with 1.2 seconds left. State just couldn't pull off that miracle. UNC won 69-67 

See? I can write like a sportswriter. 

But just because I can write like a sportswriter doesn't mean I want to. What I really want to say is, GODDAMN THAT WAS A CLOSE AND EXCITING FUCKING GAME. Also, Ramses the Ram is very, very stinky. He did a lot of his dancing right beside me, seeing as I'm at the end of press row right next to the UNC band, and by the end of the game that ram stank. 

Here's the thing: for a team with national championship hype, NC State shouldn't have given UNC that much trouble, even with one of their star players out. On the up side, State's performance proves definitively to me that they deserve a place in the NCAA tournament, which their defeat of Virginia on Friday is widely thought to have earned them. 

UNC Coach Roy Williams agrees that NC State ought to be in the tournament. At the post-game press conference he said "If I was on the NCAA tournament committee I'd fight very hard for NC State to be in the tournament. There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the best 68 teams in the country." He also refused to answer any questions before his players, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, had been addressed. "We need to get them back in the shower," he said. "They smell bad up here."

I'd love to stick around and see the end of this Duke FSU game, but I've got beer to drink! See ya tomorrow for the championship game."
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What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if Duke beats FSU in the second semifinal game today, that is - at half time it's looking far from guaranteed with FSU up 33-31). State had a lead as large as 7 points early in the second half, but Carolina came back to tie it up. It stayed that way right down to the buzzer, with UNC up by 2 with 1.2 seconds left. State just couldn't pull off that miracle. UNC won 69-67 

See? I can write like a sportswriter. 

But just because I can write like a sportswriter doesn't mean I want to. What I really want to say is, GODDAMN THAT WAS A CLOSE AND EXCITING FUCKING GAME. Also, Ramses the Ram is very, very stinky. He did a lot of his dancing right beside me, seeing as I'm at the end of press row right next to the UNC band, and by the end of the game that ram stank. 

Here's the thing: for a team with national championship hype, NC State shouldn't have given UNC that much trouble, even with one of their star players out. On the up side, State's performance proves definitively to me that they deserve a place in the NCAA tournament, which their defeat of Virginia on Friday is widely thought to have earned them. 

UNC Coach Roy Williams agrees that NC State ought to be in the tournament. At the post-game press conference he said "If I was on the [NCAA tournament] committee I'd fight very hard for NC State to be in the tournament. There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the best 68 teams in the country." He also refused to answer any questions before his players, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, had been addressed. "We need to get them back in the shower," he said. "They smell bad up here."

I'd love to stick around and see the end of this Duke FSU game, but [http://clatl.com/omnivore/archives/2012/03/06/win-tickets-to-sweetwaters-brew-your-cask-off-and-try-xl-cls-40th-anniversary-ale|I've got beer to drink]! See ya tomorrow for the championship game."
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*wikimedia commons
*He stank
What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if Duke beats FSU in the second semifinal game today, that is - at half time it's looking far from guaranteed with FSU up 33-31). State had a lead as large as 7 points early in the second half, but Carolina came back to tie it up. It stayed that way right down to the buzzer, with UNC up by 2 with 1.2 seconds left. State just couldn't pull off that miracle. UNC won 69-67 

See? I can write like a sportswriter. 

But just because I can write like a sportswriter doesn't mean I want to. What I really want to say is, GODDAMN THAT WAS A CLOSE AND EXCITING FUCKING GAME. Also, Ramses the Ram is very, very stinky. He did a lot of his dancing right beside me, seeing as I'm at the end of press row right next to the UNC band, and by the end of the game that ram stank. 

Here's the thing: for a team with national championship hype, NC State shouldn't have given UNC that much trouble, even with one of their star players out. On the up side, State's performance proves definitively to me that they deserve a place in the NCAA tournament, which their defeat of Virginia on Friday is widely thought to have earned them. 

UNC Coach Roy Williams agrees that NC State ought to be in the tournament. At the post-game press conference he said "If I was on the NCAA tournament committee I'd fight very hard for NC State to be in the tournament. There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the best 68 teams in the country." He also refused to answer any questions before his players, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, had been addressed. "We need to get them back in the shower," he said. "They smell bad up here."

I'd love to stick around and see the end of this Duke FSU game, but I've got beer to drink! See ya tomorrow for the championship game.             13066795 4986952                          ACC Tournament semifinals: UNC stinks (no really...they smell bad) "
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Saturday March 10, 2012 04:24 pm EST

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What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if...

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Article

Thursday March 8, 2012 11:36 pm EST
NC State ended their first half against Boston College with a 3-pointer and then finished the game with TWO 3-pointers in a row to soundly beat BC 57-78. This made me happy. I've never understood what Boston College is doing in this conference in the first place. Also, NC State is such a great scrappy underdog team, I've always loved them. Here's how it works: NC State hates UNC and thinks... | more...
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*wikimedia commons
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On Tuesday, I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative Loafing be presented in a town-crier format, where the news, local restaurant reviews and "Are you Shaved?" are read aloud in public squares by folks sentenced for misdemeanors in Fulton and DeKalb.

Congrats, Steve! 

The runner up, who doesn't win anything but my undying love, is Nicole Wójcik, who sent an entry that included this:

In five years, will CL have a homepage compatible with my internet-ready Acuvue Konnectd contact lenses?
 
Later in life, will CL ensure that I'll be able to connect to Omnivore by simply gazing into my infant's eyes during a feeding?

That is so awesome."
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On Tuesday, [http://clatl.com/omnivore/archives/2012/03/06/win-tickets-to-sweetwaters-brew-your-cask-off-and-try-xl-cls-40th-anniversary-ale|I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater]. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative Loafing be presented in a town-crier format, where the news, local restaurant reviews and "Are you Shaved?" are read aloud in public squares by folks sentenced for misdemeanors in Fulton and DeKalb.

Congrats, Steve! 

The runner up, who doesn't win anything but my undying love, is Nicole Wójcik, who sent an entry that included this:

In five years, will CL have a homepage compatible with my internet-ready Acuvue Konnectd contact lenses?
 
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On Tuesday, I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative Loafing be presented in a town-crier format, where the news, local restaurant reviews and "Are you Shaved?" are read aloud in public squares by folks sentenced for misdemeanors in Fulton and DeKalb.

Congrats, Steve! 

The runner up, who doesn't win anything but my undying love, is Nicole Wójcik, who sent an entry that included this:

In five years, will CL have a homepage compatible with my internet-ready Acuvue Konnectd contact lenses?
 
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That is so awesome.             13066763 4974292                          Omnivore - Brew Your Cask Off ticket winners "
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Article

Thursday March 8, 2012 04:21 pm EST

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On Tuesday, I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative...

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Also, I'm at the ACC Tournament. Woo-hoo!!"
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Also, [http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2012/03/08/acc-tournament-gets-going-at-phillips-arenaam-i-the-only-person-in-atlanta-who-cares|I'm at the ACC Tournament]. Woo-hoo!!"
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Also, I'm at the ACC Tournament. Woo-hoo!!             13066758 4973971                          Omnivore - Fresh Loaf has some stuff on it: Atlanta food deserts, me blabbing about basketball "
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Article

Thursday March 8, 2012 02:59 pm EST

A couple of things of note over on Fresh Loaf: Thomas Wheatley has a post up about the frightening U.S. Department of Agriculture's map of Atlanta's food deserts. That's deserts, not desserts, don't get your hopes up.

Also, I'm at the ACC Tournament. Woo-hoo!!

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