Mediterranean-Middle Eastern cuisine speaks of the overlap and perhaps a point of unification of several cultures. After all, who owns falafel and hummus? New on the scene, Delbar takes on food with a predominantly Persian flair yet was reviewed as having Turkish and Israeli overtones.
Fares Kargar knows his way around sea bass as he served as the front house manager of the ever-popular Rumi’s Kitchen before opening Delbar six months ago. With the popular Zafron Restaurant a block from Rumi’s and the City Springs arts complex, Kargar pitched his new tent far away near the Atlanta BeltLine on Inman Village Parkway.
Kargar grew up in northern Iran in Gorgan in the Golestan Province. Starting as a busboy at Luciano’s in Duluth, he learned the food biz hands-on with no formal culinary training. He shares his vision for Delbar: “I want to transport guests to my grandmother’s village, where I spent countless summers picking fruits from the farms, milking cows, making cheese, butter, jam, and stuffing my mouth with as much goodies as I could as soon as my grandmother would look away. Even the design of the restaurant resembles my grandmother’s house — the clay walls, Iranian arts, greenery, Persian carpets, the old movies and down to the glass and plasticware.“
Translating that model to food prep, he continues, “The menu has been designed to highlight my favorite childhood foods, whether it was in Iran or living in Kayseri, Turkey. I pride myself in the quality of the dishes. Little things like cooking with charcoal leads to appreciation from our Middle Eastern guests, because the authenticity brings them back memories of their respective countries.”
The pandemic delayed Delbar’s permitting and construction, sourcing materials and finding employees. It did allow them to have a slow start and run with a smaller menu while perfecting the rest of the dishes. Dine-in business is gaining momentum each week, but the demand for patio seating is higher than takeout, so much so that they have added tables extending out to the sidewalk from the entrance. For winter, they have sourced heaters (despite the noted huge price jump) and are covering the patio.
For the purposes of this article, highlighting pandemic dining, the food was packaged as “no contact” takeout. Containers held up substantially and were well labeled.
What we went crazy over:
The appetizers: Hummus as art with parallel lines of colored whole mini carrots and watermelon radish. The taftoun bread is topped with full-bodied black seeds. Worth licking the bottom of the container.
As is custom in Persian establishments, diners get a complimentary bouquet of walnuts, olives, cheese chunks, radishes and herbs.
Kale salad ($9) with quinoa and heirloom tomatoes, red onions. The firm cherry tomatoes ranged from lime green to Cherokee brown.
Falafel: Substantial-sized balls, mildly crunchy, were a nice departure from overly salty less textured versions.
Fresh trout ($17) was stuffed with pomegranate, walnuts and herbs.
Sea bass ($32) seasoned with saffron and onions, enough for second meal leftovers. Lived up to its “melt in your mouth” reputation. Again, enough for two meals.
Sabzi Polo: Rice traditionally served on the first day of the Persian New Year. Cilantro, fenugreek, parsley, scallions, all browned on the top side.
Side of Anaar sauce with molasses, nuts and poms-a bit too sweet for an undeveloped taste, jam-textured.
Baklava: Intense, flaky sweet. Worth every calorie.
One of Kargar’s faves is Akbar Joojeh (Iranian Cornish hen).
He leaves us with tips for perfecting hummus.
“Develop a trained pallet. Knowing when something is missing, even a little for salinity or citrus, can make or break a dish. The perfect hummus has to have quality ingredients but be subject to adjustment. Understanding the techniques is a must, but that can be learned with R&D. It all comes down to taste and preference. I personally like to taste the tahini, and I empower all my staff to understand that taste.”
Inhale the fragrance star anise, fennel, cloves, mint and cinnamon. Delbar is a fine addition to the BeltLine scene.
Delbar is located at 870 Inman Park Village. For more information, 404-500-1444.