Iraqi House Restaurant

Instagram Post 9/28/2019

Iraqi House Restaurant is, to my knowledge, the only Iraqi restaurant in NYC. Its signage was in place long before it opened and since it’s located at 7215 3rd Ave in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge, a neighborhood where I do food tours, I’d visit the site frequently in eager anticipation of signs of life. We ventured in shortly after its debut so not everything that appeared on the menu was also in the kitchen, but what we did try was tasty. In no special order:

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Qoozi Lamb (also available with chicken). One of Iraq’s national dishes, it consists of extremely slow cooked (even the bones were tender!) expertly seasoned lamb (primarily succulent rib meat) with raisins, peas, and almonds (in theory at least: no almonds that day, but again, we were among the first to enlist) over savory basmati rice and browned vermicelli noodles. The totality was infused with a rich, fatty mouthfeel that was sublime.

Makhlama, usually found on a breakfast menu, is a mélange of seasoned ground lamb, scrambled eggs, and sautéed onions; in Iraq, the dish is sometimes found deconstructed, with soft-baked eggs riding on top rather than incorporated into the mix – either way, it’s served over rice. Note that the flavor profile of this dish and the qoozi are different so ordering both isn’t as redundant as you might suspect.

I think these two appetizers shared the same mildly spicy ground meat filling but the similarity ended there. The torpedo shaped Kubba is deep fried with a rice dough crust, crispy (not crunchy) outside, soft inside. The word, like the more familiar word kibbeh (the Middle Eastern treat) and quipe (its Latin American counterpart), comes from the Arabic kubbah meaning ball (looks more like an American football to me); they all share that classic shape. Shown below is crunchy Burraq (think burek), the Iraqi answer to the spring roll.

The inside scoop.

Al-Mazaq Restaurant and Bakery

Instagram Post 6/13/2018

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An Iraqi (🇮🇶 – not often do I get to use that flag!) meal at Al-Mazaq Restaurant and Bakery at 46 East Railway Ave in Paterson, NJ turned out to be a novel experience. Al-Mazaq (المذاق) is the Arabic word for taste and I assuredly tasted some flavors I hadn’t come across before. A family operated business, our food was appropriately homespun and humble, elevated by the charming assistance of sisters Riyam and Hiyam.

[1] From the breakfast side of the menu, we ordered the Bagila Platter, seasoned broad beans (bagila) with eggs served over a foundation of Iraqi bread, languishing there to soak up every bit of flavor. But what was that vaguely familiar but elusive dusty seasoning?

[2] The mystery close up. Many questions and a lot of research later yielded the answer: البطنج – butnij, or crushed, dried river mint, a first for me.

[3] Next up were gaymar, a homemade fresh cheese supplemented with clotted cream and “black honey”, [4] and its accompanying kahi, squares of syrupy bread; dishes that when consumed together were elegant in their simplicity but ambrosial in their lusciousness. I found a similar cheese in a nearby market and intent upon reproducing this delicacy at home, tried numerous permutations of honey, pomegranate molasses, and date molasses along with clotted cream and heavy cream. Alas, I never even got close.

h/t Dave Cook, @eatingintranslation and by extension, Peter Cucè, @baoandbutterblog