147 North Winooski Avenue, Burlington, 540-3093
This is a very special Alice Eats. Special because, rather than the review of a one-time, anonymous visit to an eatery, this is my paean to a favorite.
A favorite? regular readers may ask, but didn't Farah's Place open just a month ago? You're right. The place still doesn't even have a sign. But I've already dined there four times. And, I wrote a story and did a video about chef-owner Farah Oberlender in her previous location in Johnson.
Since Farah's Place opened, quietly and signlessly in Burlington, I just haven't been able to stay away. And it's not just me. One of my Seven Days colleagues put the menu on the office fridge while I was on vacation.
Farah's is still getting its footing. The restaurant has been busy enough that Oberlender is often understaffed — in fact, for weekday lunches she's usually alone, cooking and serving. Because of that, service can be inconsistent. In another month or so, I doubt this will be a problem.
Across the board, everything I've eaten there has been delicious, though admittedly also somewhat inconsistent. Baklava, for instance, has been slightly different each of the three times I've tried it. Good every time, but different.
One thing that is unerringly excellent is the tah chin (right). Available as a frequent special, this brick of saffron-colored basmati rice is filled with a creamy combination of chicken, yogurt and eggs. The crisped outside and soft inside makes it something like giant arancini. Instead of marinara, it's topped with dried barberries, somewhat akin to cranberries. A lightly dressed salad of fresh greens adds color, but who are we kidding? It's all about the tah chin.
Kofteh, fist-sized split-pea-and-beef meatballs, are also a wonder every time, with a spicy tomato sauce and side of bread for dipping. Best of all, the soft, raisin-and-walnut-stuffed balls are so large, I get two meals from the $6.50 order.
Speaking of the fluffy, warm pita that Farah serves, one would be remiss not to try it with the mirza ghasemie (right). A small portion (easily enough for an appetizer for two) is $2.75.
Somewhat like a comfort-food baba ghanoush, this eggplant dip is flavored with tomato and garlic, then topped with fried mint in oil and surrounded by a moat of a yogurt-like whey product called kashk.
Kebabs dominate the menu at Farah's Place. They're available as platters or tucked into naan or pita bread, and, either way, the meals are shimmeringly fresh. This is not a surprise, since local products also dominate the menu. Even the lamb comes from Winding Brook Farm in Morrisville.
The koobideh (right) are unaccountably juicy lengths of ground chicken, lamb or beef. They are lightly spiced with tiny flecks of red pepper throughout, but somehow their flavor is so complex, they need nothing but a squeeze of lemon to dress them.
However, the greatest kebab of all has got to be the boneless chicken. Just be sure to ask how long it's been marinating when you order. Half a day isn't enough. This moist, flavorful chicken is at the peak of its power around three days.
The yogurt-based marinade does something for me that nothing else in Vermont has — take me back to my favorite Indian restaurants growing up around New York.
The tangy, aromatic flavors are strong but comforting and as big as Texas — or rather, the whole Middle East.
The side of saffron rice benefits from its accompanying charred tomato. Cut it up and combine the two for a real treat.
But whatever you do, go to Farah's. Chances are, I'll be there.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to email@example.com.