Mediterranean fare, seen through Cali-tinted shades
Claim to fame: A fandango of flavors, coaxed out of old favorite ingredients
Reason to go: Tadiq, the Persian rice dish that you normally only get in your Iranian friend’s home
To look out for: Kismet = fate, fortune, destiny. It’s all in the cards, you need to eat here
Surely there’s a sensuous Mediterranean nymph traipsing around Kismet’s kitchen, a vegetable-whisperer who caresses each and every cauliflower floret and sprinkles sun kissed pixie dust on the eggplants. Where did Chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson find that fairy? Possibly in the potager at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns where they both worked, or maybe in some graffitied Williamsburg lair when they helped shape Brooklyn’s progressive dining scene. These ladies’ menu is an exaltation of innovative fare, it transports you to an obscure corner of the Levant where, seemingly, there’s a tiny, hip Californian colony. Who knew?!
Nigella-dotted green beans recline on a bed of velvety sunflower seed tahini; a swell of radiant, nutty flavor that could easily have become smarmy had it not been for the fresh mint and salty-tart, vaguely smoky confit green tomatoes that lurk in the bean mélange. Chunks of creamy potatoes flaunt a roasted tan; they’re a delightful riot of assertive urfa pepper, cured scallop and macadamia nut-crunch, made docile by tangy labne. Freekeh fritters, a play on falafel, are the definition of bliss, bullets of toasted cracked wheat mixed with Kashkaval cheese that add mushroom:y funk, they’re cunningly served with a spiky green gherkin dip to keep things perky. (Kramer and Hymanson also own creative falafel stand Madcapra in the Grand Central Market.)
You could order the rabbit for two, presented with a small army of accouterments, but that means you probably won’t have room for the lemon-zippy marinated mussels with pickled shallots and currants, or the spiced carrots in almond broth, or, for that matter, the lamb belly with carob and Meyer lemon. Most importantly, you’d probably pass on the tadiq. A huge mistake. Tadiq is that most precious Iranian rice dish, beloved/famous for its crisped rice top, it’s a labor of love to make, a piece of magic that’s normally reserved for home cooking, yet here it is, in all its glory, with a golden layer of crunchy rice, and a ditto golden egg yolk embedded in the middle. Decadence has a new name, and it’s studded with currants.
There’s 70’s music on the playlist and zero pretense in the air. The restaurant’s sparse interior elevates what’s happening on the plate. And in your glass. Though Kismet does not have a full liquor license, meaning it doesn’t serve the hard stuff, it has a genuinely fascinating wine list made up of carefully chosen natural wines.