Hoboken’s dining scene is dominated by its Italian and Latin standbys. But for diners looking for something different and delicious, there’s Seven Valleys, a cozy, light-filled Persian restaurant nestled on Washington Avenue.
To enjoy Seven Valleys’s hearty Persian stews, herby rice pilafs and juicy kebabs, however, one has to be strategic—there are just 24 seats, and guests tend to linger over generous portions and glasses of wine (it’s BYO). On a frigid Saturday night, a friend and I grabbed two seats at the counter as the restaurant filled with the scents of sumac and saffron and the pleasant chatter of a full house.
Our server helpfully suggested dishes to share, noting that many diners haven’t ever tried or aren’t very familiar with Persian cuisine. I’ve actually been lucky enough to have eaten my fair share of Persian dishes, as my father’s best friend is a talented home cook from Iran, and was pleased to see some favorites on the menu, especially tahdig, the crispy saffron rice prized at Persian family gatherings ($10.95, served with the stew of the day as an appetizer).
As I described my fondness for baghali polo, or ‘green rice,’ basmati with fresh dill and lima beans ($6.95 for a side), to my dining companion, I noticed two other tables at which Persian food aficionados were also explaining menu items or ingredients to their groups. According to manager Soha Azargan, this is a common scene since the restaurant opened in October: “Customers tell us, ‘Finally, we have a Persian spot that we can bring our friends to and explain Persian food to them.’”
This scarcity of Persian restaurants in Hudson County was the impetus for owner Maryanne Fike, who runs the restaurant with her daughter Dale Ryan, to open Seven Valleys. Already owners of popular coffee shops Bwè Kafe, whose first location is on the same street as Seven Valleys, the family are members of the Bahá’í faith, which has its roots in Iran. The longtime Hoboken residents wanted to share Persian food with their community; The name Seven Valleys comes from a foundational Bahá’í book of mystical writings.
A mystical vibe (as well as an Instagramable one) is evident in the decor, with its celestial-looking marbled accent wall, sleek wooden tables and plenty of plants. “We wanted to keep the space open to be a fusion restaurant. We kept it simple but Persian-inspired,” Azargan says.
Fusion translates to a few of the menu items. The silky eggplant dip appetizer topped with caramelized onions and a drizzle of yogurt, kashke bademjan ($8.95), was quite traditional, as was the beautifully plated chicken kebab, served with bright saffron rice and a flurry of herbs ($14.95). A vegetarian version of the ghormeh sabzi, an herb, bean and dried lime stew, however, was offered in addition to the traditional meat ($18.95); lightened-up vegetarian options, such as our stew with mushrooms, have been popular even among non-vegetarians, Azargan says.
We ended our meal with something sweet and, like our other dishes, colorful—a scoop housemade saffron and rosewater ice cream ($7). Lest this be taken for a fusion dish, Azargan proudly tells me the Persians have been making ice cream for generations. This same dessert, in fact, was served at her grandmother’s wedding.
Lighter swaps and vegetarian options aside, she says, everything is made from scratch in the traditional methods. Stews can take days to prepare, from chopping sheafs of herbs to letting the flavors meld and slow cook. “Persian food is really, really hard to industrialize,” says Azargan. “Some places might change how they cook to make it easier, but we don’t do that.”
Seven Valleys, 936 Washington Street, Hoboken; 201-792-5979. Open for dinner, daily.Click here to leave a comment