The Cottage by Colbeh
1 The Intervale, Roslyn Estates516-621-2200, colbeh.com
SERVICE: Relaxed and engaging
AMBIENCE: Beach house meets a Victorian
ESSENTIALS: Lunch and dinner, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, closed Friday, sundown to 11 p.m. Saturday; wheelchair-accessible, parking lot, credit cards.
Here we are at The Cottage by Colbeh, a Glatt kosher Persian restaurant in Roslyn, and the diners at my table are fixating over what’s essentially a Kung Pao appetizer. Glazed and fried bites pile high in a bowl, while chilis tuck in the crevices, the glossy stack garnished with scallions. But fork through the interior and instead of chicken, it’s hearts of palm.
The melding of sweet, savory and spicy in this dish is familiar, but in this context — sitting in a bright dining room, tables dressed in white tablecloths, tended to by a fleet of runners, servers and managers — it is unexpected. And it is fun.
Since Gregg Lodato joined owner Pejman Toobian as a partner at Colbeh a couple of years ago, the restaurant has been diversifying beyond mezze and jujeh kebabs. Recently renovated from top to bottom, the Roslyn location was renamed from “Colbeh” to “The Cottage by Colbeh” (note that “colbeh” is the word for “cottage” in Farsi).
It’s the most quaint of three restaurants owned by this group, the first of which opened in Great Neck in the early 1980s. That one, within The Andrews Hotel in Great Neck, and their midtown Manhattan spot, are also getting facelifts along with more diversified menus.
Chef Christopher Blyh has been steering changes that include dishes like the fried hearts of palm along with duck tacos, short ribs with potato pancake and duck a l’orange. This week, Colbeh is really switching things up by debuting a sushi bar with its own designated chef on the bar side of the restaurant.
In the dining room, what used to be dowdy brocade and brass has been replaced by eggshell whites and barely blues to create a beach house meets a Victorian look. Dark wood floors anchor the lightness. Along one wall, a fireplace beckons.
Servers shape a table’s order with uncharacteristic candor and suggested must-orders. Your waiter may not tell you but you should know that dinner comes with a first round of flat bread, pickles, olives and olive oil and my favorite dish, tahdig, crispy rice dressed with lentil stew on one side of the plate and a stew of greens on the other.
Tahdig, which translates to “bottom of the pan,” references the crusty bits of caramelized rice that, like Spanish socarrat, delivers a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and distinct texture that’s easy to love. Another appetizer, olivieh, is one of the more popular Iranian salads, with potato and mayonnaise, studded with eggs and pickles — a pleasing counterpoint to the rice and stews.
For entrees, the sultan’s plate for the table is indeed a king’s feast, layered with saffron-tinged jujeh chicken, boldly seasoned lamb kebab or barg and beef kubideh, ground beef with parsley and onion, served with lemon and grilled vegetables. Another entree, the simple breaded schnitzel, offers no surprises and it’s done well. Some nights it’s dressed up with mushrooms or the flavor of Buffalo wings.
Steamed basmati rice is a point of pride in a Persian household as well as here, with the fragrant herbed plate a pale green next to the bright bejeweled rice with candied orange peel. The latter is my favorite, but it’s surprising sweetness isn’t for everyone. Yet, like those fried hearts of palms, the unexpected has a place on the menu at the Cottage by Colbeh — a new direction after decades in business.