Maman Zari - Chicago
Maman Zari announces that it offers a "Persian culinary experience," a rarity in Chicago. There are other Chicago restaurants that offer the food of Persia (modern day Iran), but in Chicago -- and perhaps the country -- you won't find another Persian restaurant that offers a white tablecloth/tasting menu experience.
Under the headline, "Maman Zari has the only fine-dining Persian tasting menu in the country," Mike Sula reports for the Chicago Reader that Chef Matteo Lo Bianco serves " an eight-course tasting menu of reimagined dishes—with wine pairings—on a stretch of Kedzie Avenue in Albany Park that’s also home to two of the city’s most established and beloved Persian restaurants. But you won’t find anything like Lo Bianco’s compressed watermelon salad with balsamic pearls on the menu at Kabobi, nor his double-smoked mirza ghasemi, served with crunchy saffron-tinted rice chips that mimic tahdig, the crispy bottom-of-the-pot layer of basmati rice that every Persian family fights over. Noon-O-Kabab’s menu sprawls, but you won’t find any deep cuts like Lo Bianco’s abdoogh khiar, a chilled yogurt soup with cucumber, walnuts, and raisins."
Maman Zari takes the fundamentals of Persian cuisine -- the ingredients, the cooking techniques -- and creates with them something new. Two menus are offered, one standard and one vegetarian, and as of summer, 2023, both are priced at $85 and estimated to be "enjoyed for 2.5 to 3 hours."
There are some stunning new flavor combinations like branzino with herbed smoked rice, mushroom, saffron beurre blanc; quail with pomegranate, walnut, tahdig (rice chips subbing for crispy rice taken from the bottom of the pot); and the aforementioned watermelon with mint, feta, balsamic pearls (you won't find anything like that in Persia or in any other Chicago restaurants....or maybe American restaurant).
Pairing with Persian wine is challenging as the country is somewhat dry and Muslim (a religion that prohibits wine). Still, there is an interesting global selection of wines, including selections from Lebanon, Oregon and, of course, France.