Cafe Reviews

Second Helpings

Wait a Minute, Mr. Postman: Readers certainly have been getting their 32 cents' worth the past few weeks.

Ramona Ayashe of Tempe skewered me for bestowing a "Best Middle Eastern Restaurant" award on an Iranian restaurant, Tasty Kabob, in our recent Best of Phoenix supplement.

Tasty Kabob, she writes, "is not a Middle Eastern restaurant. It's Persian food. That's totally different. I was very shocked."

Well, she shouldn't be. Ms. Ayashe doesn't spell out why she thinks that Persian food (Persia is an ancient name for modern Iran) is not Middle Eastern. But I can guess her reasoning.

No doubt she knows that most Iranians aren't Arabs. They're actually Aryans. ("Iran" means "land of the Aryans.") And unlike Arabic, the sacred Semitic language of the Prophet, Farsi, the Iranian language, is an Indo-European tongue. And even though some Iranians are Muslim, most are Shiites, a sect frequently at odds with the Sunni majorities of most Arab states.

But for Best of Phoenix purposes, the Middle East is simply a region. To qualify, restaurants don't have to pass an ethnic, religious or linguistic test, just a geographic one. If the Valley had Turkish, Israeli, Moroccan, Afghan or Kurdish restaurants, they'd be considered, too. For the last 1,300 years, ever since the Arab-Muslim conquest, Iran has been part of the Middle East. And that's where we're going to keep it.

Marjorie Gruber also wrote to express her disappointment in me. I had given one of her favorite Thai restaurants, the Pink Pepper, a somewhat lukewarm review. She said lunch at the branch on Scottsdale Road would change my mind.

We may both be right. Lunch and dinner at the same restaurant can vary enormously in quality. Some places can do a wonderful job with lunch fare like salads or sandwiches, and foul up the dinner entrees. The reverse is also true--you might get a superb rack of lamb at dinner, and a coffee-shop-quality burger at lunch. Remember: Lunch and dinner menus generally offer different fare, prepared by different cooks. Let the diner beware.

Finally, Vic Palmeri, a transplanted Easterner of South American and Italian descent, wants to know if there are any sports bars that cater to New Yawk fans. Anyone out there who can help? He also wants to know where a Valley resident can get Honduran, Ecuadorian or Argentinian food.

That's a lot easier for me to answer: Honduras, Ecuador or Argentina.
Phone Whine: I got a message from a distraught reader who chided me for making a terrible Best of Phoenix restaurant choice.

How, he wondered, could such a reliable, perceptive, articulate critic (i.e., me) have singled out such an unpleasant place for this award?

Easy. I didn't. While I do most of the food-related categories, this particular one came from other hands.

Had he left his name and number, I'd have called him back and told him so. And unless I owe you money, if you leave your name and number on my machine, I'll make every effort to get back to you, too. New Times' phone number is 271-0040.

--Howard Seftel

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Howard Seftel