The pair of Iranian-born brothers behind the nearly 30-year-old Peacock Cafe in Georgetown will open a new restaurant tomorrow in Dupont Circle that they’re billing as D.C.’s first venue for modern Persian food.
At Vintage78 (2100 P Street NW) Maziar and Shahab Farivar want to use aromatic rice dishes and stews brimming with dried fruits, nuts, and citrus juices to introduce a large swath of diners to their way of eating back home.
“I call it Persian attitude,” says Maziar Farivar, the chef of the restaurants. “A lot of great aroma. A lot of great flavor.”
Farivar says he wants to use bold flavors to expand diners’ vocabulary. In other words, he wants them to know that pola refers to a basmati rice blend. Vintage78 will have at least three different versions, including the albaloo pola ba morgh — a sour cherry rice served with roasted chicken that’s been glazed in a reduced pomegranate sauce — and a green bean and saffron rice mix with a veal shank in a tomato braise standing in for the traditional beef.
Farivar wants people to recognize lughmeh as similar to tapas or meze. His small plates — think fava bean fritters wrapped in flatbread or beef and potato cutlets — will be served on Vintage78’s bar menu.
Khoresh, traditional Persian stews served with rice, will come in at least three different versions: lamb with yellow split peas, beef with sun-dried limes, and meatball fesenjoon made with walnuts and pomegranate juice. A softball-sized Azeri meatball stuffed with hard-boiled egg, walnuts, and barbari (sesame-topped flatbread) represents the Farivars’ native Azerbaijan region of Iran.
“One of my goals has been for years that some of the Persian food terminology that has not really entered the vernacular in the United States will become common place,” Farivar says.
The modern element comes from touches the chef uses to gussy up tastes and presentations from his childhood. For example, the one kebab on the menu, a combination of chicken and beef, will come with tachin, the prized crispy portion from the bottom of a pot of saffron rice. Khoresh will be topped with fried matchstick potatoes instead of traditionally heftier chunks.
Despite representing a predominantly Islamic, teetotaling culture, Vintage78 will have an extensive bar that integrates saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, and pomegranate into cocktails. Farivar says he and his brother will highlight “under-appreciated” wines from Middle Eastern locales like Lebanon, Israel, and Turkey.
The name of the restaurant is a nod to 1978, the year they arrived in the United States. After attending high school in Woodbridge, Virginia, and college in San Francisco, the brothers returned to the area and opened Peacock Cafe in 1991. Maziar Farivar began deviating from his American-friendly menu of salads and grilled meats around 2010, when he was invited to the James Beard House to participate in a celebratory dinner for Nowruz, the Persian New Year.
He started offering Persian specials at Peacock Cafe for a couple days per week, and some became popular enough to earn a permanent place on the menu. Enough non-Iranians gravitated toward the Persian dishes to convince the brothers they could open a place solely dedicated to food from their home country.
“Frankly It’s a dream come true of many many years,” Maziar Farivar says. “We are quite proud and excited to be doing this.”
While Vintage78 appears to be the first restaurant of its kind in the District, Amoo’s Restaurant in McLean has drawn notice from the Washington Post and Washingtonian. On a more casual level, Moby Dick House of Kebab has used Iranian cooking to grow a mini-empire around D.C.
Vintage78 will open for dinner Sunday through Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will stay open until 11 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday.