I promise I’m not bandwagon jumping :) Yes, I know the Times Union had a review this Sunday of Persian Bite (some good photos there, also). I guess I should have gotten my review up on Saturday after we ate their for the third time (well, technically we got takeout this time). I have no clue why the SCHENECTADY Gazette has note reviewed this gem in downtown SCHENECTADY.
The relatively new Persian Bite is at 96 Jay Street, right across from City Hall in the row of semi-rotating shopfronts. They’re open most days for lunch and dinner, except that just around Greenmarket time on Sundays are the only Sunday hours. The menu is short and sweet (well, savory mostly). Some salads, a few varieties of kabobs, that sort of thing. The website is…not amazing. But you can get a menu, etc. from it. Usually.
I sort of hate to admit it, but we’ve gotten the same things all three times we’ve been there. Here’s a peek:
With your kabab you get (a huge serving of) nice basmati rice with saffron or fresh bread. We always got rice…and also bread. The kababs are flame grilled fresh when you order. The bread is also grilled fresh to be hot and ready with your other food. (The bread in that photo is about the size of my two hands with fingers outspread, plenty for two people.) The rice is premade and microwaved in their rudimentary open kitchen, but it’s perfectly fine. The yellow on the rice looks a bit odd in the photos above, almost like cheese sprinkled on the rice, but it’s actually just saffron marinade (I think…maybe melted butter and saffron?) ladled over the rice, coloring it a bright, cheery yellow. Oh, and you get a grilled half of a roma tomato. Things clearly got a little out of hand with mine on Saturday, but that hadn’t happened before, I usually cut it up and enjoy it with the rice. And because I haven’t forgotten enough in this paragraph, you also get a little container of butter. I assume it’s for the rice, but haven’t asked, yet. We usually ignore it, but this time I poured the melted butter over my rice and it was, of course, delicious.
I was pleased to see that even with takeout you get salad. This isn’t mentioned on the menu, but the kababs do come with salad, such as it is. Shredded lettuce and cabbage with a squirt each of…mayonnaise (I think…my wife’s convinced it’s mayonnaise) and…wait for it…hot sauce.
Look, I have no idea if this is traditional or not. The first time it was ultra surprising, but it’s really pretty tasty. If you cannot stand hot sauce, though, stay away, it really has some bite. Eat it with some bread.
The meats we’ve had so far are grilled really well. I’m not ready to pronounce them ‘perfect’, but given that the cook stands right over them the whole time (not much else to do, really), they’re lovingly watched over. My wife is pleased with the chicken and I keep getting the lamb, which stays relatively moist (better in the bigger pieces, obviously) and spiced very gently to let the flavor of the meat be the star. The chicken is quite yellow as you can see from it’s saffron marinade and seems pretty juicy. Here’s what else we know:
- Note that there are exactly THREE tables. Feel free to get takeout. The interior is nice enough, as you can see from the photo above, it’s not glamorous, but they’ve made a tidy, attractive little place to eat out of what they have. It’s bright and cheery with what certainly sounds like Middle Eastern pop music playing.
- The backstory of the guys you’re likely to meet at Persian Bite is well told by Bryan Fitzgerald in the TU piece linked above. I think the first time we went we were told that sometimes there is a wife or sister-in-law there to help out sometimes, also.
- Since it’s impossible not to eavesdrop in the tiny place, we learned that, while their previous life in Iran seemed hard to beat (going to work for a few hours, stopping for a meal and a rest mid-day, some more work and then out socializing until all hours), they still felt the draw to America and, although said a bit tongue-in-cheek, “a better life”. C’mon, you have to support these people that left Iran to come here and follow a dream (one of them via England per Fitzgerald). Seriously, get over there and eat some kabobs. Did I mention that after working in the restaurant one of them was telling another customer about how he then goes to work elsewhere? Putting in the effort, that’s for sure…
- A local stopped by one time for a repeat visit and rather loudly enjoyed a vegetarian wrap, apparently not for the first time.
- If you’re inclined, try the tea. Served with sugar cubes in tiny teacups and saucers (from Iran per our host), it comes piping hot and is pretty mild in flavor. My wife read that you’re supposed to grip the sugar cubes in your teeth and drink it through the sugar….but we just drop in the cubes. They’ve also got a handful of cold cans of soda, bottled water, Snapple…that sort of thing. It was beyond nice of them to serve us cups of tea while we waited for our takeout the last time we went. They just prepared two cups and brought them over and offered them to us, then asked if we enjoyed it when we got our food and were ready to go.
- They have some tie to someone involved with Festival Cinema Invisible, an annual Iranian film festival that completed its third year in 2014 at Proctors. There are/were some posters up about it and I think the cook mentioned either a friend or relative that was involved with the festival.
- Still waiting for the menu to expand, on our first visit we were told that they were looking to maybe add some specials for weekend dinners in the fall. My wife thinks he mentioned stew. Hoping they go for it.
- Don’t sweat pronouncing anything, they seem to prefer if you order by number.
- Generally glowing reviews on all the normal review sites. Seriously, why aren’t you there already?
Overall this is just a great little place and we hope they make it. We recently spent a week ‘living’ in the heart of Albany. Pretty much the one and only thing that makes me long for city life in a place like NYC is the easy access to a sea of wonderful little restaurants in an array that would make Epcot Center weep in shame. Hey, let’s get Polish tonight. Tomorrow we’ll get Greek. Over the weekend how about picking up Chinese or maybe Afghani? Of course I would actually HATE living in the city I think, at least I would if I actually had to park and drive and be places on time, etc etc. But, yeah, that allure is there for the eats. We have all of our fingers and toes crossed that places like Persian Bite continue to come to Schenectady and hope they thrive and stay.