(This restaurant is now, sadly, closed.)
Since the raison d’être of this blog is to spread the word about worthwhile food experiences that people may not know about, this restaurant seems like the perfect way to begin. Of course, “worthwhile” means different things to different people, but for me it means good food (always subjective) at a fair price (somewhat less subjective). Café Sim-Sim passes muster with flying colors. Located in the Kensington neighborhood in Brooklyn, it specializes in Azerbaijani food, which seems to be a cheerful amalgamation of Turkish, Armenian, Persian, and Russian cuisines.
On the basis of the three dishes I tried this evening, this restaurant has catapulted itself to the front rank of my favorite restaurants in NYC. I started with dushbara (дюшбара), a wonderfully satisfying soup of hearty meat dumplings wrapped in delicate dough-skins in a palpably homemade chicken broth seasoned with chopped mint. A little of the accompanying sauce of chopped garlic in red wine vinegar improves it further.
Predictably, kebabs hold center stage in the main dish department. Not so predictable was the first-rate quality of the kebabs—even the accompaniments were stellar. When I was told they would be served with french fries, I thought, “Oh, well… nothing says I have to eat them, and I don’t need the carbs anyway.” But when I was presented with some of the best fried potatoes I have tasted anywhere, all thoughts of leaving even a single fry vanished completely. These fries were obviously whole potatoes very recently, at no point frozen, fried perfectly (well, as perfectly as possible without frying them twice, that is) and sprinkled with some fresh dill. The lamb shish kebab (listed, mysteriously, as “lamb pulp shish kebab”) was top-notch. Chunks of good-quality lamb expertly grilled over charcoal… one could hardly ask for more, and the beef shish kebab at a neighboring table looked every bit as good.
Halfway through my lamb kebab, I realized I couldn’t leave without trying something else, so I ordered another kebab. This one was called “chicken lyulya kebab”. The word lyulya appears several times, unexplained, on the menu—it simply means “ground”. Armed with this information, freshly-imparted by the charming waitress, I was still not prepared for what I received: five juicy, kofta-like flattened meatballs of seasoned chicken, charcoal-grilled on a skewer, then individually wrapped in strips of lavash (Caucasian flatbread, rather like a moo shu pancake) and sprinkled with dried sumac. Stupendous.
Prices are eminently reasonable. Most of the soups and starters are $5-$8, and the kebabs are $7-$9, with fish offerings costing more. Considering the quality of preparation and ingredients, an unbeatable value.
Before my soup was finished I was already plotting my next visit, and I’m determined to try everything on the extensive menu. Whereupon, I will, of course, report back.
312 Ditmas Ave., Brooklyn 11218
(F train to Ditmas Ave., then 3 blocks east)