The dish on Long Island's restaurant and food scene
Zar Cafe: Jewel box in St. James
I’ve never been the biggest burger fan, but I’m a sucker for kebabs made from ground meat, such as Turkish kofte kebabs, Pakistani seekh kebabs or Persian koobideh kebabs, which I had for lunch at Zar Café in St. James.
Once the seasoned, ground meat (beef sirloin, in this case) has been pressed along the length of a flat, wide skewer, the chef makes crosswise furrows in it, to give it added texture and to pick up a better grill char in spots. Buns are often where the burger goes wrong — please skip the brioche, the kaiser roll and any other “interesting” ideas — but the classic Persian kebab accompaniment is a big pile of basmati, the king of rices. Instead of ketchup, this kebab came with an addictive little sauce, tomato based and seasoned with the tart Middle Eastern spice sumac.
Zar is a curious-looking establishment. The design is extremely opulent with lush upholstery, recessed lighting, decorative columns, golden accents, a well-appointed bar and a glassed-in open kitchen. And all of this is squeezed into a tiny box of a restaurant, 30 seats tops. Yet it does not feel cramped. A triumph of smart design.
Zar Café is at 413 Lake Ave., St. James, 631-862-4444.