Saturday, June 13, 2009


Shiraz Restaurant
81 E Main St
Elmsford, NY 10523
(914) 345-6111

Great lamb shank, spotty service.

Shiraz is the first Persian restaurant that I have seen in Westchester, located at the site of the old “Oki-Doki”, a Korean restaurant that closed down some years back. The first time we went to Shiraz, on a Saturday night with the economy less than healthy, the manager informed us that he had run out of food. Food must be good, we concluded, and made a second attempt a few weeks later. This time I had the gumption to call in for a reservation.

Persian food has strong similarities to North Indian food. There has been much migration into India from Iran over the centuries, indeed the language, Urdu, which means “army” in Persian, arose as a bastard dialect that formed the compromise between the Persian generals and and their Hindi speaking soldiers. And so with the food as well. Meat preparations such as kebabs, rice dishes that go by polow in Persian, pilau in Dari, and pulao in most of India; cucumber-yogurt side dishes, khira raita to the Indian, the more dramatic mast-o-khiar to the Iranian; Zulbiya (Jalebi in India)--a deep fried (in sugar or honey) batter of interpenetrating rings fused together, with caramelized sugar on the outside and partially fermented sugar on the inside, was popularized in India by the Mughal emperor Jehangir in the 17th. century. Persian food makes more extensive use of dried nuts and fruits, such as zereshk or dried barberries. It tends to be less spicier than North Indian food, and I prefer this level of spiciness since it matches closer to levels of home cooked Indian food.

The manager at Shiraz, a pleasant looking sort of chap, looks like he skipped a couple of courses in basic restaurant management courtesy. After taking our name, he pointed out a table with the peremptory wave of an Indian bureaucrat, and promptly forgot about us. After a healthy wait, we flagged a waiter down for menus, some time later we flagged another one down for some water, it was, as if, the establishment ran an a la carte’ service for basic services. Once we ordered, it took a significant amount of time for the food to arrive, though in this case the delay was a welcome one, reflecting the time it took to genuinely prepare a dish from the ground up rather than composite one from pre-prepared items in the bin.

The dish to order at Shiraz is the lamb shank: with tender meat falling off the bone, set in a mild, flavorful souplike gravy that tasted like really good homemade Indian meat curry. This was probably one of the best lamb dishes that I have eaten in Westchester. A second meat dish we ordered, a concoction of pomegranate and beef -- I would avoid in future, the combination falls flat. The rice was good, individual grains evenly cooked, without stickiness, “equal but separate”. We ended the evening with dessert—zulbiyas and Persian ice-cream, the zulbiyas shriveled and stale from that morning or the night before, but the Persian ice-cream, popularized in Iran only after the first World War, with its saffron and rose water infused flavors on that cool, calm Elmsford evening reminding me of Ralli Singh’s Rose Syrup, Rooh Afzah, and times long gone.

Revisit (note added Aug 20, 2011)
A few days back we returned to Shiraz and can attest to the fact that the place has retained the high quality of its dishes.  The lamb shank (they use New Zealand lamb) remains the best that I have had in Westchester.  The gravy, less spiced compared to Indian food, has a deeper, subtler flavor.  The beef kebabs, particularly the ones made from ground meet were superb.  And I cannot shower any more praise for the ice cream--with its saffron and rose flavor, this is one of the finest and most exotic of ice creams that you will have had. 
Shiraz on Urbanspoon


  1. this is a persian restaurant as in iranian not indian. get your countries straight

  2. The Urdu language is no more a "bastardized" language than Hindi or Farsi. Most languages in similar systems share characteristics, words, etc. Try reading some writers like Iqbal and Hafez to get an idea of what a language on the crossroads of many civillizations sounds like.

  3. Indian food is completely different from Persian or Iranian food and Shiraz is an Iraninan food. Shiraz is a city in Iran and that is this restaurant named after. Please do your research before you post something in internet.

    1. thank you for these insightful comments! I was completely unaware that Indian food was different from Iranian food-this has been a revelation-:-)

  4. Please please please start researching before putting wrong information on internet. This is a 100% Persian restaurant and Persians or Iranian do not speak Indian. They speak Parsi. There are Zoroastrians in India who migrated from Iran when Iran became Muslim also Iran conquered India during Achaemenid Empire or first Persian Empire and it was during that time Indian's inherit some Persian culture and perhaps food. Iran never had India Soldiers unless during the time they were ruling India they would have used Indian's in their army. Also army mean artesh in Persian not Urdu. Urdu in Persian mean camp not army.
    Persians have their own language which is Parsi they are the original Aryan's and Iran means the land of Aryans. They are not Arabs and they are not Indians either. Persian Empire existed prior to the Roman's Empire and somewhat was destroyed after Alexander conquered Persia at the time.

  5. If you were to read my article a bit more carefully, you would find that I was referring to Iranian soldiers based in India, and not the other way around as you have interpreted. There is a similarity between Iranian food with North Indian food--this is what I was trying to point out. It is similar with music. Most inheritance of Iranian influence into India was not during the Zoarastrian migration as you have indicated (which was ~1000 years ago), but started with the Mughal dynasty and the emperor Babur who was Persian and entered India by way of Afghasnistan in the 16th. century, and then culminated with the invasion of Nadir Shah from Persia during Bahadur Shah's reign in Delhi. Thank you for the correction of the meaning of Urdu (camp not army). The Mughal armies had people of Persian and Indian extraction, and the language that came out of that intermixing was Urdu.