Have you ever felt like taking a break from your current career and starting over?
That’s what Niroj’s owner Luqman Barwari did. After a lifelong career as a scientist, he decided he would open the restaurant he’s been dreaming of, for years. Barawi’s concept was to offer Kurdish food in a home-like atmosphere -and Niroj in Agoura Hills (New Beginnings in the Kurdish language) does just that.
I have to admit we knew almost nothing about Kurdish cooking before visiting Naroj. After traveling to several countries in the Middle East we had become acquainted with most Levantine dishes, so we were curious to compare the Kurdish food to the Turkish, Lebanese and Persian cuisines.
We chose to dine in what the owner describes as the traditional Kurdish room on the left side of the restaurant. Original Kurdish paintings adorn the deep brushed tan walls. Turkish rugs cover the floor, and the custom-made benches make you feel like you should ‘kick back’ and relax. The food is served on the low brass tray tables and like in most Middle Eastern restaurants you are welcome to eat with your hands though silverware is supplied. The restaurant also has a larger hall decorated with kilims, old-fashioned champagne racks and brass teapots that can accommodate larger-sized parties.
The menu is quite extensive and includes multiple crowd-pleasing cold and hot appetizers. At the owner’s recommendation, we opted to try two mezze platters along with and a cup of Dhew (a typical Kurdish drink made of thinned Labane and cucumbers on ice.)
Our cold platter contained some of our favorite items like Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), Humus (garbanzo bean dip), Babaganoush, (roasted eggplant dip) and Tabbouleh (cracked wheat salad).We were introduced to two new delicious surprises-Hesandin (roasted red peppers, carrots, and walnut dip) and Heyderi (a form of Hesandin mixed with yogurt and feta cheese.)
The hot appetizer platter provided an assortment of cigar-shaped Boreks (phyllo dough filled with spinach and feta cheese), Falafel ( fried garbanzo bean ball), Kutilk ( cooked ground beef and cracked wheat ball ) and skewered Kurdish sausage. We voted two favorites here: the deep fried Boreks that were crisp but not greasy and the flavorful falafel balls with chopped celery that gave them additional texture.
Next, we had the Lahmajun, which is a type of Kurdish pizza –a combination of finely ground lamb and beef with chopped chili peppers, tomatoes, onions and herbs baked on traditional flat bread. By the time the restaurant’s famous Riha Kebab (grilled spicy lamb and beef kebab) arrived, we were pretty stuffed but still found the kebab impossible to resist.
Don’t leave without dessert
The owner insisted we should try his home-made Kunefe -oven baked fresh mozzarella wedged between two layers of crispy thinly shredded phyllo dough laced with homemade syrup and topped with ground pistachio. And he was right. The dessert perfectly portioned in its traditional bowl, is an absolute must- have to complete your meal at Niroj.
Autism travel tips
If your kid is noise sensitive, you ask for a table in the back of the large room or the Kurdish themed room.
The restaurant provides children’ portions and can accommodate special diets if notified in advance.
Have you ever had Kurdish food? If so, what dish did you like best?