Albany Park is no stranger to Persian restaurants—there are four within walking distance of the Kedzie Brown Line alone. But Maman Zari is the first Persian tasting menu spot—not just in the neighborhood, but in Chicago. It's nine courses for $85, and the small restaurant is busy, full of chatty diners enjoying wine pairings and servers introducing courses and routinely scraping crumbs off of the white tablecloths. The formality and neatly plated dishes are what you expect from a fine dining spot—but the food ranges from boring to imbalanced.
While the first few dishes (like smoked eggplant or a potato and egg patty) aren’t bad, they lack flavor. Later courses have well-cooked proteins, but trip up at the finish line because of their overseasoned components. A flaky piece of branzino with rich beurre blanc is served with rice so herby it could qualify as a salad. Though the quail in the fesenjan is juicy, it's topped with sludgy pomegranate molasses that's too sour. And after back-to-back just-fine dishes, the almost three-hour meal feels more like an $85 obligation than a fun time (though at least the hefty servings mean you won’t leave hungry. It’s worth noting that they do have a purely vegetarian option, but otherwise, book a reservation for Noon O Kabab’s fine dining area instead.
photo credit: Stuart Block