The Laundry, an art gallery and event space in the Mission District, has hosted a pop-up by the Iranian Komaaj since last fall, in which chef and owner Hanif Sadr is selling tea and Northern Iranian specialties from the room’s café.
In honor of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, Sadr and the laundry are working to raise funds through Trybe in Oakland to feed 500 East Bay families in need. This week, from Thursday March 25th to Sunday March 28th, Sadr is offering a special fixed-price menu ($ 40 USD) that includes saffron glazed smoked sturgeon with herb rice, fire-roasted eggplant with whey and mint oil, and more items, to support these efforts. Every order sold correlates with another meal donated.
If you haven’t tried Sadr’s cuisine yet, this charitable Persian New Years special is as good an excuse as any other. I tried takeout a few months ago and ordered pretty much everything on the menu because everything looked so good. His complex and aromatic herb rice ($ 8.50), Sabzi Katte, gets its flavor from a mixture of parsley, chives, and dill. Then a side blob of sumac-flavored labneh gives the drier basmati rice a welcome infusion of moisture and flavor. You can add a slice of smoked trout to the rice for $ 6 to make it more substantial – and add a whole new layer of fat and flavor to the dish.
He also sells a wide variety of spices (who doesn’t these days?) That got nested in my pantry very easily. Beet yogurt ($ 8), Maast o Labou, is pastel pink and satisfactorily thick, with lots of black pepper; It’s great as an add-on to avocado toast. If you’re a fan of olives but don’t want them back with just rosemary and orange peel, check out his fermented herb paste ($ 7), Dalar, which adds so much complexity and depth to simple pickled olives.
Hanif Sadr, head chef and founder of the northern Iranian pop-up Komaaj, created an edible Haft Seen salad with apples and a few other symbolic objects in his house in El Cerrito, California on February 7, 2020.
Kate Munsch / Special on The Chronicle
Learn more about Nowruz and how Sadr’s childhood memories affect his cuisine in this great story that Naz Deravian wrote for us last year. Nowruz, a 3,000 year old multicultural festival that celebrates seasonal shifts and the beginning of a new year, is the best time to enjoy food that reflects the here and now, as well as the modern California style of farm-to-parallels to the table kitchen.
Sabzeh, the $ 8 sprout salad on the fixed-price menu, is a classic Nowruz dish that sums up the entire company. Made from sprouted clover and peas in vinegar and sumac, it is full of the small sprout tendrils whose vitality can be felt with every spoon. It’s a necessary reminder that even the softest, most pebbly seeds have the potential to open up and unfold into something completely stunning.
Komaaj kitchen in the laundry. Thursday-Saturday noon-8 p.m. 3359 26th Street, San Francisco. 415-598-8286 or komaaj.com
Katherine Spiers, former LA Weekly Food Editor and co-author of Rogue 99, delves into the history of food on her podcast, Smart Mouth.
Courtesy of Katherine Spiers
In the podcast
This week, Justin Phillips and I have a chat with Katherine Spiers, the woman behind Smart Mouth, for a food history podcast and newsletter. We all take a step back and wonder what future food historians would say about this current moment we all live in when so many foodies started and ditched culinary projects at breakneck speed during the pandemic. (Be honest, I bet your sourdough starter looks pretty sad by now.)
What I eat
There’s something uniquely calming about a luscious vegetarian platter full of spreads and happy snacks, and few are better than that vegetarian combination plate ($ 17.99) in the Palestinian town of Abu Salim in Haight-Ashbury. It contains all the things you would have ordered as a starter anyway, like a silky smooth hummus, Arabic salad with cucumber and tomato, super crispy and hearty falafel and more – enough for two meals in my experience. The pita you get on the side is wonderfully fluffy on the inside too.
I am a fool for Mexicans Corn in a cup, so I’m excited to announce that the Buena Vida Cantina ($ 8) version made from sweet Brentwood white corn is really excellent. The corn is roasted in a wood-fired oven before being peeled off the flask and mixed with queso fresco, chili powder, and lime juice. It took me back to when I was living in Mexico, chasing the neighborhood Elotero for my nightly fix, when I heard him calling outside my window.
• Do we drink too much or do we all sober up? As Esther Mobley relates, America has a long history of zigzagging between ideological extremes when it comes to alcohol. Read how she delves into this story and how the conditions of the pandemic shed new light on this American conflict.
• This week I reviewed SingleThread, an upscale restaurant in Healdsburg that I think does a great job with an outdoor dining program that currently has Japanese stews at the heart of every dinner.
Hanif Sadr, chef and founder of the Northern Iranian pop-up Komaaj, in his living room with photos of women cooking in a village in Gilan Province, Iran on February 7, 2020 in El Cerrito, California.
Kate Munsch / Special on The Chronicle
• This week’s stained page newsletter is an essay by author Lola Milholland on Japanese-American community center cookbooks in the 1960s and 1990s. Their development over the decades runs parallel to the developing self-image of Japanese Americans during this time.
• TV presenter and chef Alejandra Ramos wrote this thoughtful read on the double-edged sword of visibility when you have a racist body. After making a recent culinary contribution for the Today Show, she received messages from viewers who opposed her clothes: They thought her curvy body was too lewd for television, criticism akin to comments she’d made most of her life has endured. Your refusal to be shamed is a powerful testimony.
correction: In last week’s newsletter, the name of the founder of Ok’s Deli was incorrectly stated. The sandwich-centric company is run by Chef Albert Ok.
Bite Curious is a weekly newsletter from Soleil Ho, The Chronicle’s restaurant reviewer, that hits your inboxes on Monday morning. Follow on Twitter: @Hooleil