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Thanks to a heads up by LA Asian Foodies member, Yarom, we will be dining at what might be LA's only Kurdish restaurant. Sampling cuisines from areas in Central Asia that I have never had before has always been high on my foodie bucket list. In the last year, I've had to opportunity to try Uzbek and Georgian cuisines. Sampling Kurdish food just seem like a natural progression. Kurdistan is an autonomous region of Northern Iraq (with its people also living the region that is across the border in Southern Turkey).
We will be dining family style and ordering the following dishes, avoiding the more common mezzes and kebabs:
• BAMYA - Tender chunks of top sirloin with okras, special herbs, and spices slowly baked in the oven with our homemade green chili pepper and tomato sauce. Served with rice pilaf.
• TAWE - Tender chunks of lamb with eggplants slowly baked in the oven with our special homemade green chili pepper and tomato sauce. Served with rice pilaf.
• MELÊ DIZ - Marinated ground Riha kebab mix on a bed of a whole eggplant submerged in our homemade green chili pepper and tomato sauce, slowly baked in the oven. Served with rice pilaf.
• PÎDE BI KURDISH SAUSAGE - Kurdish sausage and mozzarella on a rolled thin-crusted dough, baked in oven.
• KUTILK - Cracked wheat stuffed with lean ground beef, onions, pine nuts, and our special Kurdish spices, deep-fried and served with Tahini.
• We will meet in front of the restaurant shortly before our 5:45pm reservations.
• We will be dining "Family Style." The food bill will be split evenly among all attendees. Attendees will be responsible for paying for their own alcoholic beverages. Please note that flexibility is an important part of family-style dining, and if you want to take a chance on attending, you have to be amenable to what the group will order. You don't have to eat everything that is ordered, but everyone pays equally, whether you eat everything or not. The goal for family-style dining is to allow for the entire group to sample as wide a variety of dishes as possible. If one or more attendees choose to order on their own, that limits the group's choices, which defeats the purpose of what Family-Style Dining is all about. If this definition of Family-Style Dining doesn't feel comfortable, this may not be the right type of event for you.
• Cost per person is expected to be about $25 - $35, depending on how much food we order, plus any beverages, tax and gratuity. Please bring at least $50 in CASH (small bills preferred) to settle your portion of the bill.
• For wine connoisseurs, they have a corkage fee at $15 per bottle.
• Parking is available in their own private lot.
• So far, they have received an average rating of 4.5 Stars out of 5.0 on Yelp, from over 80 reviews: http://www.yelp.com/biz/niroj-levant-cuisine-agoura-hills-3 (http://www.yelp.com/biz/old-malaya-grill-huntington-beach-2)
• You can check out their Dinner and Drink Menus here: http://www.nirojcuisine.com/dinner/
Jean T. Barrett wrote an article about Niroj in the July/August 2014 issue of Westway magazine:
"Luqman Barwari, a scientist at the biopharmaceutical company Amgen, always dreamed of opening a restaurant serving the food of Kurdistan, the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Then, late in 2011, he was laid off. One door closed and another opened; he’s now the proprietor of Nîroj Levant Cuisine (http://www.nirojcuisine.com/), which has brought the fragrances, flavors, and colors of his homeland to the Conejo Valley.
For authentic atmosphere, pick a seat in the restaurant’s front room, lined by low banquettes strewn with vibrant throw pillows and lit by glittering lanterns. The other, larger dining room is more modern, accented by wall hangings and tablecloths from the Kurdish region of Turkey.
Kick off your feast with a cold or hot meze combination. The cold platter features tabbouleh and dolmas, along with a variety of piquant dips, such as hummus, baba ghanoush, and heandin (a spicy red pepper and walnut mixture). And the hot meze platter includesbörek, a rolled pastry stuffed with feta cheese; falafel; Kurdish sausage; and kutilk, which is cracked wheat stuffed with seasoned ground beef.
Mussaka, a version quite different from the Greek moussaka, is made with layers of baked zucchini, potatoes, and eggplant; topped with spinach béchamel; then cooked in a tomato-based sauce; and served with a heap of savory bulgur. I ordered it and had delicious leftovers for days. Traditional stews such as bamya (beef and okra in a tomato-and–chile pepper sauce) and tawe (lamb and eggplant) are rich and satisfying. Kebabs are well spiced and juicy; the Amed combination allows you to sample grilled chicken, riha (seasoned ground lamb and beef), and lamb kebabs. House-made, warm-from-the-oven naan is perfect for mopping up the last juicy bits of sauce and stew.
Barwari makes the desserts, including a tasty version of baklava, a creamy rice pudding, and künefe, a sweet cheese pastry topped with chopped pistachio nuts."