When Eyval debuts at 25 Bogart street, at Varet Street, in Bushwick on Wednesday, March 23, Ali Saboor hopes to expand New York City’s understanding of Iranian food one small plate at a time. The live-fire restaurant and bar is attached to Sofreh Cafe, the casual follow-up bakery which opened in 2021, a sibling to Sofreh, the fine dining Persian spot in Prospect Heights where Saboor was the chef de cuisine.
With Eyval, where Sofreh owner Nasim Alikhani is an investor, Saboor is turning to recipes inspired by Iranian street foods — and looking further than just kebabs. “What we’re trying to do here is reimagine classic Iranian dishes, as far as our wings, and kebabs — they’re very nostalgic dishes that you would get in the streets of Tehran,” Saboor tells Eater. “We want to deep dive into regional Iranian cooking, but also with an understanding that we are in 2022 Bushwick, so utilizing seasonal ingredients, specific to here.”
During a trip with Alikhani to Iran in August 2020, Saboor was struck by the prevalence of jigar stands, where offal and other protein skewers are cooked over charcoal. “I had always been an admirer of live-fire cooking, but when I came back from that trip, I knew that was the flavor I wanted to replicate,” Saboor says. “We want that aroma of smoke, applied to the whole menu.”
Sofreh Cafe opened to several praising reviews, including Eater critic Ryan Sutton exalting the redolence of rose that wafts throughout the bakery. When Eyval opens, a more savory musk might envelope diners via dishes like grilled skirt steak accompanied by sumac yogurt, grilled tomato, and onion; a half chicken with pickled cabbage and a pomegranate-walnut sauce; and beef heart with a tomato chile sauce, pickled cucumber, sumac, and onions — all cooked over a combination of wood and charcoal.
“I wanted to continue that legacy we started at Sofreh,” Saboor says. “But really look at the pantry of Persian ingredients like dried lime, kashk (cured yogurt), fenugreek, and pomegranate molasses — marry those into small dish concepts, done in a more youthful way.”
In Farsi, borani is any dish that’s a mix of yogurt and vegetables, but Saboor makes it his own with crispy potatoes, saffron yogurt, barberry, pickled red peppers, and herbs. Kashk is typically prepared with eggplant, but at Eyval, it will be served as a small plate of shishito peppers, cured yogurt, mint oil, and olives. Meanwhile, dishes like the appetizer of Persian cucumber with chile, vinegar, urfa pepper, and nigella seeds comes with date molasses, more typical in the south of Iran, but lesser seen elsewhere in the country, according to Saboor.
The 60-seat restaurant also functions as a bar, where the team hopes people will hangout at even if they’re not dining. Drinks — like the rose gin and tonic (with rose water and cardamom), a saffron-laden martini, or a scotch drink with sour cherry and pistachio orgeat — are crafted by Billy Nichols, Eyval’s bar director and general manager, who formerly worked at Vinegar Hill House. The menu also includes wine, beer, and non-alcoholic sharbats, a sweet cordial popular in Iran that’s offered here with sour cherry or mint-cucumber.
For dessert, there’s a rose-and-yogurt custard with orange blossom honey, strawberry, and pistachio; a saffron raisin cookie ice cream sandwich; and a date-and-walnut tart with grilled banana ice cream and sesame. Saboor tells Eater that a black lime donut is in the works.
“It’s all these pieces we’ve been working on for years, now under one roof,” Saboor says.
Eventually, Eyval will open for lunch and brunch, but the menu already features items from the next door Sofreh bakery, such as the barbari bread.
“Eyval in Farsi, sort of means ‘right on’ — it’s an enthusiastic exclamation that’s positive,” he says of the name. But for Saboor, it’s part of the restaurant’s larger goal of setting forth a new path for Persian cooking in New York City, home to America’s second largest population of Persians, outside of Iran itself.
“Iran is a country under sanctions,” says Saboor, when explaining why he decided to open another restaurant. “It’s our way of saying hopefully the future will be brighter. Not just for us here, but for Iranians abroad — and to have some fun with it along the way.”