Forced to stay at home during the pandemic, Nasrin Rejali craved the connections she made catering Persian food in New York. Instead of getting down on herself, she began plotting her next career move: opening a full-on homestyle Persian restaurant where she could share her mom’s and grandmother’s recipes.
Soon, she began bottling jams, hosting Persian pop-ups, opened an online shop, and finally, in the summer of 2023, her dream became a reality: Nasrin’s Kitchen opened in Midtown just a couple of blocks away from Central Park.
“A lot of people know about Iran, but not about the different dishes,” Rejali says. “I’m pushing myself to show more things from Iran.”
Nasrin’s Kitchen now joins a growing cohort of restaurants spotlighting Persian cooking in the city, including Eyval in Bushwick and Sofreh in Prospect Heights. The family-run restaurant is also a vital, welcome addition to Midtown’s dining scene, an area dominated by large restaurants that’s also been feeling the void of the beloved Taste of Persia (now delivery only).
Read on for why a meal at Nasrin’s Kitchen is essential NYC dining.
What to order
Rejali has an intentionally small menu—she wants you to feel like you’re eating at her home. “I don’t believe I have a restaurant,” Rejali says. “I think of it as a small home, and people come and eat as my guests.”
So it tracks that many of the dishes on the menu are what she grew up eating and were prepared by her family. Fesenjan, the rich pomegranate and walnut chicken stew that’s one of Iran’s best-known dishes, is a highlight on the menu. “My grandmother always made this for me on my birthday, and that’s why I kept it on the menu,” Rejali says.
The zereshk polo ba morgh, a chicken and saffron rice dish with tart barberries, is another Iranian staple Rejali couldn’t do without. “It’s a very simple dish, but a lot of Persian people have memories of eating it,” she says.
Unlike many Persian restaurants, the kebabs on Rejali’s menu play a supporting role—the stews are the real star. “These are simple but old recipes, and people really love that,” Rejali says. “I want to show that each city in Iran has different food.”
What to drink
Many of the drinks counterbalance the richness of the food. “Persian food can be heavy, and our portions are pretty big,” Rejali says. “We make our drinks in a way that they don’t make you feel lazy when you’re eating the food.”
By that she means a lot of light berry- and herb-based drinks. Ab zereshk is a sweet and sour barberry juice, while sekanjabin is a refreshing mix of mint and vinegar syrup and cucumber. Plus, Rejali recommends getting her doogh—a fizzy yogurt and sparkling water drink with rose petals and dried mint that’s meant to aid with digestion. There’s also a small selection of beer and wine.
Where to sit
Rejali designed the restaurant in a way that you’d want to linger. The cozy space on the second floor of a former Gilded Age mansion seats 60, and the walls are lined with Iranian artworks. Small plaques on each table tell you about a city or a landmark in Iran—all part of Rejali’s vision of sharing more about her country, which she fled as a refugee with her three children in 2015.
The feeling of being in someone’s home is perhaps most obvious with the hospitality here—no one will come around to tell you your reservation clock has run out. “People are always working in New York, so I’ve tried to make it a place where you can feel relaxed,” Rejali says. “No one will say ‘please go.’ You can sit here for three or four hours. I would love to give people even more space.”
When to go
Rejali says the best time to snag a reservation at Nasrin’s Kitchen is lunchtime on Sunday. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Friday from 5 pm to 8 pm, Saturday from 1 pm to 8 pm, and Sunday from 1 pm to 3 pm and 5 pm to 8 pm.
Tanay Warerkar is OpenTable’s New York writer and a content marketing manager