Any restaurant still seating hungry diners after more than a decade deserves a gracious bow.
Sufi’s Kitchen Atlanta, in Buckhead, serves traditional Persian cuisine in the Brookwood neighborhood between Midtown and Buckhead on Peachtree. Celebrating 12 years, Sufi’s serves lunch and dinner seven days per week, something to be admired by a family-owned business. Persian cuisine is healthy and closely aligned with Mediterranean cultures like Greece and Israel, where kabobs, hummus, flatbread, seafood, and eggplant dishes are hometown favorites.
Some may recall Sufi’s occupancy in the former Greek Shipfeifer (Joel Brenner) gyro location. In addition to the main dining room with burgundy walls and tufted ceilings, Sufi’s has an enclosed patio that can be rented for up to 55 guests for private parties. Catering off-site is also available.
“Sufi” literally means “man of wool,” a believer in Islam. Owner Mike Emami also owns the Diner at Sugar Hill, billed as a hometown restaurant in Buford, with a vastly different and extensive menu, including breakfast, lunch and dinner heaped with comfort food. A busy man, Emami starts the day in Buford and segues later over to Buckhead to manage Sufi’s. He attributes his long-running success to consistency, product quality and service. Emami is a native of Ahwaz, Iran.
Part of the experience at Sufi’s was having Emami’s son, Keyon, as a server, who was gladly able to recommend well-rounded combinations and perfectly paced the courses.
We split three appetizers: house made hummus, Sufi’s special, Shirazi salad with freshly diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, herbs, fresh lemon juice, and olive oil, which was light and shareable. The table favorite was the Sufi’s special, with sautéed eggplant, onion, garlic, and chickpeas in a spicy tomato sauce worth fighting over. Most of the appetizers are $5 for lunch, $7 for dinner. Falafel and stuffed grape leaves are good options with prices at $6, $8. Items are marked with (V) for vegetarian. Any three appetizers can be plattered at $16/$20. When asked what the secret to good hummus is, Emami teased, “If I tell, it won’t be a secret.”
The menu is divided into categories: appetizers, soups and salads, stews, kabobs (16 choices), wraps, specialty dishes, rice selections, kids’ meals, sides, and desserts. The menu offers something for all palates, though many dishes feature the same ingredients served differently. One enticing marketing idea is Sufi’s kabob platter for four with three specialty rices ($95 for dinner.)
Although salmon is a standard entrée, the entrance chalk board touted the nightly sea bass special. Who could resist that? The server suggested the specialty rice (Baghala Polo) with fava beans, dill and saffron. We pointed to a brilliant scarlet rice (Albalo Polo) basmati rice with black cherries, at the next table, which the server pronounced as “too sweet” for our entrée, but of course personal preference.” Other options: Shirin Polo basmati rice mixed with pistachio, carrot, sautéed dried orange peel, raisins, and almond slices looked pretty darn yummy.
Then there’s Zereshk Polo rice mixed with barberries, pistachio, and almonds. The sea bass had two large pieces and was served with a slightly crusted top and kept well for leftovers.
For dessert, we chose the baklava ($6) which was a starlike design with cigar spirals beneath an artsy coulis, and the Persian ice cream ($6, $7) made on the premises, which was a generous portion in two orangey/golden mounds colored by, and flavored with, saffron, which was a nice change of pace from the traditional super sweet American recipe. Pomegranate or baklava cheesecake would be good options.
Try next time: Market vegetable kabob centered around Portobello mushrooms, pineapple, and squash. Mirza Ghasemi, smoked roasted eggplant, and, of course, a steady choice – falafel wrap with a side green salad ($10), and salmon wrap with dill remoulade sauce and seasonal greens ($13). Some salads are dressed with house walnut vinaigrette dressing.
Trying new, trendy fusion restaurants is adventurous, but sometimes the “tried and true” reliable establishments like Sufi’s are the best comfort.
Another amazing boon is the free parking just out back…but leave the high heels at home. Sufi’s is located at 1814 Peachtree St., 404-888-9699.