Restaurant Review: Eyval in Bushwick, Brooklyn

If you’ve eaten at Sofreh, the four-year-old Persian restaurant in a Brooklyn brownstone, chances are you’re familiar with its mast-o musir, a yogurt dip. The first things you see are shavings of dried musir, the wild Iranian shallot, prized for its courteous yet distinct garlicky smell. Below is a bed of yogurt enriched with musir. It has a richness that reminds you of custard and a sour streak that makes your mouth water.

One of Sofreh’s first chefs, Ali Saboor, recently opened his own Persian restaurant in Brooklyn. Its name is Eyval, its neighborhood is Bushwick and its yoghurt is even more delicious.

Eyval has its own version of mast-o musir, topped with musir marinated in a spicy pool of turmeric oil. But the restaurant’s greatest contribution to advancing the cause of yogurt in New York City is Mr. Saboor’s re-examination of another yogurt dip, or class of dips, called borani.

A typical borani involves folding cooked eggplant or another vegetable into strained yogurt. The vegetables in Eyval’s boranis tend to be seasonal treats, like browned butter-grilled fern heads or small green spring beans smoothed with mint oil, and they’re not mixed with yogurt. They sit on top of it, in a little hollow, like the pothole I make in my mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving so the sauce has a place to go.

Concentrating the vegetables in the center means that every swipe of bread given in the borani will result in a good amount of pure, undiluted yogurt, which can be enjoyed in its own way. I’ve enjoyed many yogurt dips in my life, but Eyval’s boranis might be the first yogurt dips I felt anything like craving for.

I mention this not only because I hope you’ll try a borani in Eyval, but also because it illustrates some of the ways Mr. Saboor has developed the Persian themes he first explored at Sofreh.

There he began by helping Nasim Alikhani, a landlady, adapt the stews, fragrant basmati rice dishes and other recipes that had made invitations to her home much sought after by her friends. He had cooked in restaurants; she had not. At Eyval, which opened in March with the financial support of Théodore Petroulas, Ms Alikhani’s husband and partner in Sofreh, Mr Saboor turns his attention from the house to the streets, in particular the grilled skewers eaten through Iran.

A street food-focused follow-up restaurant might suggest a simpler menu, easier recipes, more limited flavors. None of this in Eyval. Portions are generally small; a single skewer makes a serving. But behind every plate is an understanding of how Persian ingredients like lime and barberry create little flavor bangs, as well as a sure sense of when a few drops of rosewater will kick off the right thing. comes out and when the sharp acidity of the green grapes are just the thing.

The Eyval chicken skewer is not just a stick of meat. It’s a reimagining of zereshk polo morgh, the reliable combination of basmati rice, cooked chicken and barberry that has appeased hungry guests at countless Persian dinner parties. Grilling gives the chicken a golden, crispy skin and a smoky flavor. On top are fried onions and tangy dried baby barberries, and below is a chicken-tomato broth, flavored with saffron. All the good stuff is there, down to the separate rice plate, but it comes together in new ways.

The koobideh, on the other hand, is undeniably a stick of meat. But what meat it is. Mr. Saboor grinds up lamb shoulder and beef brisket, a fatty cut that many chefs rely on to produce a self-basting burger. Lightly seasoned, it gives an exceptionally tender, almost delicate kebab.

Then there is the mushroom kebab. It’s not meat, nor served on a stick, but it might be the most interesting thing on the menu. The royal trumpets are grilled until they are as caramelized and juicy as sea scallops. They are accompanied by pickled beech mushrooms, and the two are tied together by a creamy beluga lentil stew. From these deeply earthy elements, Mr. Saboor has built something elegant.

The setting is a graffiti-scribbled corner building next to a vintage clothing store. Opposite the restaurant, across a parking lot, is Roberta’s, which first introduced this dynamic, ingredient-conscious small plate brand to the region. Until last month, residents of Eyval ran a Persian teahouse next door, Sofreh Cafe, where wafer-thin pastries such as frozen pirashki filled with rosewater cream materialized throughout the daytime.

Some of these objects have survived the cafe. Some evenings, a meal at Eyval might start with a small loaf of komaj, vaguely sweet and sprinkled with cumin seeds. There’s almost always barbari, the classic Persian flatbread, a long, grooved oval with sesame and nigella seeds embedded in its crackling crust. Among other things, barbari is an ideal tool for scooping yogurt.

The kitchen, organized around two charcoal barbecues, is installed like a hinge between the two dining rooms of Eyval. One room has a cocktail bar, and the other has a white wall on which an old concert by exiled Iranian pop star Googoosh is usually projected. Both venues are covered in subway tiles and can be extremely noisy when full, which they often are. And, like many restaurants now, Eyval sometimes falls short of its service targets, so your dining experience may not live up to the standards set by the kitchen team.

His accomplishments go beyond kebabs. There are chunks of Persian cucumber, sticky with date molasses that contains a thick, smoky layer of Urfa chili flakes. The watermelon and feta salad, a success at Sofreh, is tangy and lemony under a fine powder of dried lime. In potato tahdig, tender saffron rice sits under a thin, crispy, golden rectangle of potato slices to form a kind of upside-down pie of starch layered on top of starch.

While Eyval emphasizes crisp, crunchy, and quick-cooking ingredients, it does offer a few braises that are among the more traditional dishes on the menu. There’s ghormeh sabzi, chopped herbs and vegetables simmered with fenugreek in a dark, tangy pulp and served with a terrific veal shank, cut through the bone like an osso buco. Gheymeh bademjan, spiced lamb stewed in tangy tomatoes with unripe grapes, is topped with a whole grilled eggplant and a handful of fries. Naturally, it comes with rice.

I can’t be the only one hoping the dessert menu will expand to include some of Sofreh Cafe’s greatest hits. In the meantime, there is a yogurt pudding flavored with rose water and, more alluring, a thick slice of saffron ice cream sandwiched between two raisin biscuits.

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