June 01, 2023

Traveling to different countries and dining in New York City exposed Reza to a variety of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. These experiences brought back vivid memories of the dishes he learned to cook in his mother's kitchen. Noticing the similarities between the flavors from his travels and his childhood meals, Reza felt inspired to share these cultural and culinary connections with others. He dreamed of creating a space where people could experience and enjoy these rich, diverse flavors.

From Family Kitchen to Culinary Innovation

Reza's path into the culinary world was far from traditional. He didn’t attend culinary school; instead, he learned to cook at home. As the youngest in his family, Reza spent countless hours helping his mother in the kitchen and watching his father expertly grill kebabs. From a young age, he was deeply involved in the family’s culinary activities, from cleaning tables to preparing dishes. This hands-on experience helped develop his palate and instilled a deep love for food.

Establishing Shiraz Kitchen and Wine Bar

In 2015, Reza took a significant step forward by opening his first restaurant in Elmsford, New York. The restaurant quickly became a beloved local spot, celebrated for its authentic flavors and warm hospitality. It received notable acclaim, including a glowing review titled "Review: A Persian Renaissance at Shiraz Kitchen in Elmsford" from The New York Times in 2016. The Elmsford location also earned the prestigious Bib Gourmand distinction for good quality, good value cooking from the MICHELIN Guide United States in 2020, 2021, and 2022, and was named one of the "35 Most Delicious Middle Eastern Restaurants in the U.S." It even received a "Very Good" review from The New York Times.

Overcoming Challenges and Rebuilding

However, in September 2022, a devastating fire forced the closure of the Elmsford location. The challenges didn't end there; difficulties with landlords and insurance compounded the loss. Despite these hardships, Reza's passion for his craft and the support of his loyal customers fueled his determination to rebuild.

Drawing strength from this challenging period, Reza opened a new location in White Plains on April 27, 2023. This reopening was a rebirth for him, a fresh start that rekindled his passion and commitment to bringing rich, authentic flavors to his community. This location also features a sushi bar, which has quickly garnered acclaim, with customers declaring it the best sushi in Westchester County.

Expanding to New York City

Meanwhile, his ambitions extended to New York City. In September 2019, Reza signed a lease for a Chelsea location. After five months of construction, the restaurant was set to open in March 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the grand opening to late October or early November 2020. The start was rough, with limited indoor dining initially allowed, but Reza’s resilience and commitment helped establish Shiraz Kitchen and Wine Bar as a unique dining destination in Chelsea.

Adapting to a Changing Industry

Running a restaurant has its ups and downs. The pandemic posed a significant challenge, teaching Reza the importance of adaptability. He expanded delivery services and implemented strict safety measures to protect staff and customers. Managing uncertainty and financial strain required creativity, leading to the introduction of special events and takeout packages to keep the community engaged.

Navigating supply chain disruptions was another hurdle. Constantly adjusting the menu based on ingredient availability while maintaining quality was crucial. Finding and retaining skilled staff also proved challenging. To address this, Reza focused on creating a supportive work environment and offering training programs to build a dedicated team.

Commitment to Quality and Sustainability

Reza’s meticulous approach extends to sourcing ingredients and wines. Shiraz Kitchen and Wine Bar sources ingredients from a mix of local farmers and trusted international suppliers to ensure freshness and authenticity. Sustainability and organic products are prioritized whenever possible. For wines, Reza works closely with well-known wineries and distributors to curate a selection that perfectly complements the dishes.

Embracing Culinary Trends

In tune with current dining trends, Shiraz Kitchen and Wine Bar embraces sustainability, local sourcing, and unique dining experiences. The menu highlights fresh, seasonal ingredients and includes a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. Events like "Burger and Burgundy" nights and "Rosé All Day" cater to evolving tastes, ensuring Shiraz Kitchen and Wine Bar remains relevant and exciting in the dining scene.

Signature Dishes and Accolades

Some of the standout dishes at Shiraz Kitchen and Wine Bar include lamb chops with special Persian rice called albaloo polo, made with pistachios and sour cherries, and the ever-popular ghormeh sabzi. The branzino has even been named the best branzino in NYC, adding to the restaurant's reputation for exceptional cuisine.

Community Support and Future Vision

The support from the local community and loyal customers has been a cornerstone of Shiraz Kitchen and Wine Bar's journey. Special events and community initiatives have strengthened this bond, creating a welcoming space for all.

Looking ahead, Reza envisions further expanding Shiraz Kitchen and Wine Bar, introducing new culinary innovations, and continuing to provide exceptional dining experiences. By continuously adapting to trends and listening to customer preferences, Reza strives to reflect the current culinary landscape while staying true to his roots. Shiraz Kitchen and Wine Bar stands as a testament to Reza's journey, blending tradition with innovation and creating a space where everyone can savor the rich, diverse flavors of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine.

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