Photo by Michelle Gillan Larkin
Medi Bistro in White Plains is a destination restaurant boasting mouthwatering Persian cocktails and plates.
The youngest of five growing up in Tehran, “I was the one on top of the chair, watching my mother prepare the rice, the stews,” says veteran restaurateur Par Shakiban. “In our culture, the meal is an event. We take it very seriously.” And then, with his mischievous, childlike grin: “We are a very serious people — when it comes to food.”
Shakiban took his upbringing with him when he left home for NYC in 1959 at the age of 15, just a handful of English words on his tongue and not one family member to greet on arrival. He supported himself as a busboy and waiter, and even though he was recruited out of college by IBM, he’d already been bitten by the restaurant bug.
Less then a decade after setting foot in America, Shakiban opened Par’s Steak & Lobster in Armonk. A string of successful restaurants in Westchester and Connecticut followed (foodies will remember Eclisse, Mediterraneo, and Brezza), and his Austrian-Swiss bakery, Patisserie Salzburg (Rye, Stamford, and New Canaan), still thrives.
In April, Shakiban opened Medi Bistro with the intention of creating a “destination” restaurant. “Persian food is a vast cuisine, and everything about it has to be related to the culture,” he says. “People travel for this kind of food.” Every recipe, from the palate-prepping pickles (delicately marinated in 19 herbs and spices, most of them imported and house-ground) to the Persian ice cream and tea was crafted by Shakiban.
Lightly blackened pita and dips of hummus, smoky eggplant, and labne pair with authentic salads, slow-cooked stews, and traditional kebabs of chicken, lamb (tender as filet mignon), seafood, and beef koobideh, a blend of four meats and a mouth feel as light as air. Most everything enjoys the kiss of pure, Persian saffron, particularly the rice, and all of it is to be shared. “The table my mother prepared was a smorgasbord,” Shakiban says. “Three different stews, two to three rices. And everything — the yogurt, the marinated garlic — was homemade.”
A dozen wines and Persian cocktails complement a meal that not only satisfies but also serves as an immersion in Persian culture. “There’s no such thing as Persian fusion, and I wasn’t looking for any new styles,” says Shakiban of his latest venture, the culmination of a food career that’s spanned 65 years. “It was trial and error, one dish at a time — until it tasted like home.”
50 Main St, White Plains; 914.946.1232