The Capital Area restaurant scene has been dominated by Italian Restaurants for years. Not complaining – love Italian! In the last couple of years our restaurant options have grown but many of the new options are Barbeque , Indian and Asian. Again not complaining but Manama Grill in the Delaware Plaza in Delmar is a breath of fresh air. The restaurant serves Persian Food and it is a wonderful treat for the our local culinary options.
The following is a review for the Times Union. The Lady doesn’t usually bow to another reviewer but review said it all. I truly enjoyed eating at the Manama Grill and will be returning in the near future.
Manama Grille was opened in February by Leo Ashiq, who also owns two of the area’s Shalimar restaurants, including the one in the same Hannaford Plaza as Manama. Ashiq, a dapper, friendly entrepreneur, was born and raised in the diverse trading city of Manama, Bahrain, after his parents moved there from India. He popped in as we were finishing dinner and congenially made the rounds of the tables.
.The food is fairly priced and simple. Restrained decorative strokes applied to the strip-mall spot that used to be Carappoli’s Family Restaurant suggest an exotic Persian vibe without wallowing in it. Our efficient Ukrainian server had a similar restrained charm, patiently answering questions at nearly every table about the origins of her delightful accent, without overdoing the entertainment where it wasn’t called for.
Frequently refilled cups of spiced Sulaimani lemon tea ($2.95) warmed the early fall chill from our fingers and filled our olfactories with the pleasant fragrances of cardamom and mint. The large oblong of flatbread served with our appetizers was warm, golden and fragrant with black nigella seeds (identified with the Urdu name “kalonji” on the menu). It looked a lot like Iranian Barbari. Manama calls it “kamachi,” a term I was unable to locate in my Persian cookbooks, which I consulted because I liked it so much I wanted to try to make some at home.
Although the bread is sold a la carte for $2.95 ($1 to $2 more for additional fillings and spices), our server offered to bring us extra rounds at no charge.
A large bowl of Eshkeneh soup ($4.95) was filling and soothing, a recipe worthy of 2,250 years of repetition. It is said to have been served as a courage-bolstering meal for Persian troops during Parthian King Arsaces’ campaigns against the king of Syria before the Christian era. Onions were sauteed to a dark golden brown with flour, turmeric and aromatic fenugreek, then steeped until rich. At the last minute, stirred raw egg was dropped into the broth. It seemed very olive-oily at first, until we noticed a lemon wedge hiding behind the bowl on the saucer. Once we squeezed that in, the soup was near-perfect.
The Manama mutabel ($6.95) was a garlicky blend of roasted eggplant, sesame, diced tomatoes, onions and olive oil with a generous sprinkling of red sumac, a versatile spice that added color and tartness to many of Manama’s savory dishes. I thought eight pieces of dolme anab ($6.95) was a generous portion, but was surprised to see how quickly the tender stuffed grape leaves were devoured. They were moist and minty, so we didn’t need much of the strong garlic yogurt dip to enjoy them.
I can highly recommend the loz ajwa and the firnee, two confections served under a sweet sauce of coconut milk and almonds. The loz ajwa ($4.95) was unlike anything I’ve come across in decades of haunting Middle Eastern bakeries. The slices of date roll under the coconut sauce had one of those incredibly rich, fudgelike textures that you keep eating even after you’ve told yourself to stop before you get dizzy. The firnee ($2.95), a variation on a traditional Afghani cardamom cream pudding, was lighter, with ground rice, almonds, pistachios and rose water cooked in milk, topped with sliced dates. A small piece of baklava ($3.95) remained flaky under its honey coating.
Manama’s menu offers grilled shrimp, lamb, beef, salmon, ahi and chicken, as well as six vegetarian entrees. Dinner for two with two appetizers, one soup, two entrees, three desserts and two teas came to $73.98 with tax, before tip.
Cheryl Clark is a journalist and former restaurant owner from Malta.
180 Delaware Ave.
Credit cards: MC, V, D, AE
Hours: 4:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, closed Monday.
Parking: Shopping center lot
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Price: Appetizers, $3.95 to $6.95; soups and salads, $4.95 to $9.95; entrees, $10.95 to $16.95; desserts, $2.95 to $6.95.