In 1991, two brothers with limited savings pooled their resources to open a cute, 12-seat eatery on Prospect Street. With only the aid of a hot plate and a convection oven, Maziar Farivar, the older of the two, prepared the pasta salads and sandwiches on the short menu. Younger sibling Shahab managed the front of the house, waiting tables and handling take-out sales. Both charmed and nourished all who entered Peacock Cafe.
And when, in 1998, these natives of northwestern Iran moved a few doors down, expanding their operation into an airy full-service restaurant, contemporary in décor, the fans followed. Maziar’s modern American, Mediterranean-influenced menu – at the same time sophisticated and family-friendly – has something for everyone. Kids can have their meatloaf and mashed potatoes while the adults at the table dig into a whole bronzino with fennel-butter sauce. From the bar come made-to-order fresh vegetable and fruit juice drinks, as well as killer cocktails, 24 wines by the glass and a heady selection of craft and imported beers.
The chef’s addition of exceptional Persian dishes has not gone unnoticed. “They are so well received, I’m doing more and more,” he says. Borani is a thick purée – bright tasting and spicy – of caramelized onion, sautéed spinach and yogurt with a touch of cumin and chili oil, a yummy spread for crisp flatbread. I adore the creamy and smooth, sweet-scented pistachio soup enlivened with a sour note of Seville orange. The fruit-and-nut theme continues in an entrée of delicate Atlantic cod atop a compote of apricots, figs, sour cherries and shaved almonds. Sun-dried limes are the secret to the explosion of flavor in qaymeh – a stew of tender chunks of lamb, yellow split peas and tomatoes, topped with a tangle of tiny golden-brown potato sticks.
Last summer, Maziar created a healthier version of one of his favorite dishes, Cajun-style shrimp and grits. His inspiration was “Fit for Hope,” the American Cancer Society’s 12-week chef weight-loss and fitness competition. “This was a real challenge for chefs with girth,” says Maziar, who lost 22 pounds and raised $2,000. “Adding coconut milk is my little twist.”
Cajun Shrimp with Coconut Cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower, outer leaves removed
7 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup provolone cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
10 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning mix
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon, cut in wedges
Cut the cauliflower into florets and then into 1-inch cubes. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the coconut milk to a simmer and add the cubed cauliflower. Cook until fork-tender, about five minutes. Off heat, strain the cauliflower, removing and saving the coconut milk. Then transfer the cauliflower to a blender and add the salt, pepper and shredded cheese. Pulse until the mixture resembles lumpy mashed potatoes, adding back the reserved coconut milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, for desired consistency – smooth or chunky. Cover to keep warm.
Meanwhile, dust the shrimp with the Cajun seasoning mix. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until pink, about 3 minutes. Add the white wine, stirring, and reduce the liquid by half, about one minute. Remove from heat. To serve, mound the cauliflower on a plate or a platter and arrange the shrimp on top. Garnish with the parsley and lemon wedges.
3251 Prospect St., NW