The Early Word: Zaffran Bangladeshi in Kensington
Zaffran, a Bangladeshi restaurant recently opened on Church Street at the corner of McDonald in Kensington, Brooklyn, has an extensive and promising menu. There's nihari, a long-cooked beef stew, haleem, pasinda--chicken or beef cooked in yogurt and spices--goat chops, and chapli kabob, among many other traditional dishes. And there's paya, the stew of goat feet boiled in spices that's popular both in Bangladesh and West Bengal, the Indian State.
Don't talk politics at Zaffran
(In fact, Bangladeshis and natives of West Bengal share a language--Bengali--and, to some extent, a food culture. Both sides, for instance, use a lot of mustard oil. It was once one region, but was split in partition, when the British, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the Bengali Muslims should live on one side, and Bengali Hindus on the other.)
Sadly, all those dishes are only available after 5 p.m., and Fork in the Road stopped in for lunch yesterday, when the selection of food was limited to what was in the steam table. There's nothing necessarily wrong with a steam table--even if you can't see it, any long-cooked curry or biryani is already made when you order it anyway--but there were few interesting foods on offer.
The mustard oil was flowing, though, and we're going to stop back in for the evening meal sometime soon. Click through to behold an impressive biryani.
Hidden under the fluffy, oiled rice, this biryani was replete with chunks of bone-in lamb (suck out the marrow!), long-cooked onions, prunes, and small green chiles. A faint slick of neon yellow on the bottom of the plate gave away the presence of mustard oil. With the deluxe addition of a boiled egg, this is truly a feasting dish.
Here's a generous plate of rahu fish, also called buffalo fish or Indian carp, in a mustard-oil sauce. It's a fresh-water fish very popular in South Asia, and the menu states that Zaffran imports it from Bangladesh, presumably frozen. It has firm, white flesh and a mildly muddy flavor, similar to river catfish. Dipped in the pungent oil, it was tasty enough, and the slices of eggplant on the side soaked up the sauce beautifully.
Finally, a simple dish of potato, spinach, gourd, and lentils, livened with a bit of mustard oil and nutmeg, with whole-wheat chapati. Nothing special, but a simple lunch feed, popular with the men who patronize the restaurant.
We've got to go back for the spicy goat feet.
Zaffran Party Hall and Restaurant
90 Church Avenue