Honey Mediterranean Gourmet & Market
1150 Teaneck Road, Teaneck NJ
Restaurants sometimes have good reasons for calling themselves something they are not. In the case of Honey in Teaneck, it’s because that marketing is often more effective than full-monty disclosure. Which is very, very sad, because I think Honey is one of the most interesting ethnic restaurants to open in our area in a very long time.
Why the deception? Honey’s cuisine is Persian — which originates from the country that in the modern day is called Iran.
While the restaurant bills itself as Mediterranean, modern day Iran is nowhere near the Mediterranean Sea. Iran borders the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf, and cuisine-wise bears only a passing resemblance to most Mediterranean food.
Sure, Persia once controlled the territory which is now modern day Turkey, which does border the Mediterranean, but that was between 550 and 330 BCE , when the Achaemenid Empire controlled most of the civilized world.
The history of Persia is complex and one of the most fascinating in ancient history. Its cuisine is unique, delicious, and exotic. And in this part of Northern New Jersey we’ve had the unfortunate situation of previous Persian restaurants failing, such as Shiraz in Edgewater.
Up until Honey’s opening, we’ve only had access to Afghani food at the very excellent Teaneck Kebab House, Pamir in Morristown and Kabab Paradise in Lake Hiawatha. While sharing a similar cultural history as well as a similar language with Iran, Afghan food is very different in terms of their cuisine. Aside from Honey, Negeen in Summit is one of the few other legit Persian restaurants in the area.
[Editor’s Note: Shahrzad in Edgewater, which took over Shiraz’s space, also opened in June of 2010, after this post was originally written]
Like other Muslims residing in this country Iranian-Americans are often the unfortunate recipients of bad behavior and harassment from ignorant people who vandalize restaurants and businesses as a result of misdirected anger and hatred.
Because of this Persian cuisine in this part of the country frequently goes unappreciated. Los Angeles by comparison has a thriving Persian community, but in New Jersey not so much.
Teaneck just got its Persian on. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
Honey recently re-decorated the entire front of their store and now has a very pretty dining room.
These old Persian works of art depicting popular dishes and food being sold by street vendors were recently imported from Iran.
Honey is both a full-service restaurant as well as a Persian grocery store. The rear of the place is lined with wall to wall exotic spices and nuts and tea and all kinds of wonderful things needed to cook authentic Persian.
Here’s a more wide-angle view of the grocery.
Awesome tea section, with a big selection of bagged and loose-leaf Persian-style and English-style black teas.
More Persian grocery goodness (click photo to enlarge)
Raw, green almonds. These are actually eaten as snacks in their raw form.
Persian pastries and cookies.
Honey’s Menu. Click on the photo to enlarge.
A view of the grill area, with Kabobs cooking.
We decided to try all three soups on the menu. This is the Ash Reshteh, which is made with spinach, cilantro, parsley, noodles, beans and lentils, and flavored with unusual spices including dried Persian lime powder.
This is Barley Soup, with Barley, Green Beans, Carrots, Corn, Onion and Chicken with “House Sauce”. It’s a mild flavored, comfort-food type soup.
Our favorite, however, was the Lentil Soup, flavored with Persian spices.
This appetizer is called a Kookoo Sabzi, a spiced vegetable souffle of herbs, garlic, eggs and walnuts. Similar to the Eastern-European Spinach Kugel.
This is the “Beef Cutlet”.
Shirazi Salad, plated. It’s similar to other Middle Eastern salads but with a very strong lime juice flavor and more herbal.
What do you drink with Persian food? Yogurt Mint Soda, or Doogh. Salty, minty… and yogurty. I could feel the lactobacillus brewing in my stomach after drinking it.
This appetizer/hot dip is Kashk-o Bademjan, sauteed eggplant blended with Persian spices including dried mint and topped with sour cream. Nothing like Babaghanoush.
Koobideh Kebab, probably considered to be Iran’s national dish, a spiced mix of lamb and beef served with saffron rice pullao. I once made these at home and so can you if you buy the right spices from this store, which they sell in packets. All the meat cooked at this restaurant is Halal which strictly adheres to Islamic dietary standards.
Koobideh Kebab (2011)
Steak Kebab, made with Sumac-seasoned Filet Mignon which has been butterflied out.
Zereshk Polo, Basmati Rice topped with Barberries (a tart, currant-like fruit) with slivered almond, pistachios and saffron rice served with chicken kabob. Visually impressive and really tasty too.
Persians really like their pickles. This is a mix of Eggplant, Carrot, Cauliflower, Radish and Chili Pepper.
In addition to Kebobs, Persian cuisine is also defined by stews. This is a Fesenjan, tiny meat balls stewed in a rich sweet and sour sauce with walnuts and pomegranate, served with rice. This stuff did not get left over and an international incident between my wife and I almost broke out over who got to finish it.
This is Ghormeh Sabzi, a stew of greens, red beans, lamb and dried lime. Like the other stews it has a distinctive sour flavor from the Persian lime.
This is another stew, Gheymah, which are cubes of lamb with yellow split peas in a tangy sauce. This is normally served over white rice, but I asked if they had any Tahdig, the crispy stuff that adheres to the bread that is stuck to the bottom of the rice that keeps the pot from burning. Iranians go crazy for this stuff and the owners were very happy to oblige and treat us just like family. And now I know why they like Tahdig so much.
A regular order of Gheymah served with eggplant on top.
Rolled pastry filled with a cold whipped cream (2011)
Faloodeh, a very cold, semi-frozen noodle dessert with sweet rose water syrup. This is meant to be eaten during very hot days, and is very much oriented toward kids. Definitely not a winter dessert.
My favorite dessert at the restaurant is Bastani-e Za’farāni, home-made Saffron Pistachio ice cream with rosewater syrup. This is similar and probably related to an Indian Kulfi, but with a very heavy saffron punch.
Naan-e khaameh-ee aka Persian cream puff. Iranians like to eat their pastries with very cold, actually frozen cream in the center, colder and harder than ice cream. They’ll heat it up a little if you want, though.
The generous owners, Fatima and Ali Khayatian.