Savoring Persian Comfort Food at Café Nadery in the West Village

By Rosa Goldensohn

Onex

(Photographs by Rosa Goldensohn)

The nights are growing longer and colder in New York, and Soheil Danesh is ready for his first ash reshteh of the season.

“This is like my mom’s,” says Danesh, 31, from his perch at a back corner table at Café Nadery in the West Village. Originally from Tehran, he is now living in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Ash reshteh is a bean, herb and noodle soup from Iran. It is eaten year-round, though it’s famous as a special dish served for Yalda, the Persian winter solstice celebration that marks the longest night of the year, in late December.

Nadery’s ash reshteh begins with kidney beans and chickpeas that are soaked overnight and then simmered with onions and spinach. Next thin egg noodles and fresh herbs are added. Then it’s topped with caramelized onion, a little garlic, dried mint, and kashk (tangy fermented yogurt).

Hearty, yet delicate, ash reshteh balances the velvety, tender cooked greens with those tart toppings. Nadery’s version has a brightness imparted by the fresh parsley, dill and cilantro added just at the end of cooking.

“People get excited because it’s not something they can get in many places, it takes a lot of labor to make,” says Melanie Griot, Café Nadery’s manager. “We call it an herbal gumbo.”

Griot, who is French, developed the menu with Louisa Shafia, author of The New Persian Kitchen. Café Nadery, which emulates the intellectual coffeehouses of Tehran, draws West Village locals and Iranian expatriates seeking the flavors and the feel of home. On Sundays, regulars linger, playing backgammon and drinking tea.

“Growing up in Shiraz, three days a week, I would go to a café with friends or with my mom. In the morning, you go sit for an hour, have random talks,” says Vala Hamidi, 30, a medical resident now living in New York.

On a recent evening, Danesh, Hamidi and Navid Jamshidi—all three born and raised in Iran and now living in New York City—share a back table, chatting in Farsi over bowls of ash reshteh. Nadery’s version of the dish, they agree, is the real thing.

“There is a difference between ash and soup,” explains Jamshidi, 36, an oncology fellow who came to New York seven years ago from Shiraz, in southwestern Iran. “It’s ash. It’s not soup, it’s not stew.”

“Ash—winter, blankets, snow outside, family,” Danesh recalls.

“The other occasion for ash is if somebody leaves their town or country,” Jamshidi adds.

“You sit around the fireplace,” says Hamidi. “They have a big pot and everybody is invited.”

Café Nadery
16 West 8th St. (map)
New York, NY 10011


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