Thursday, November 18, 2010

A visit to Sufi's

Posted By on Thu, Nov 18, 2010 at 10:45 AM

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One of my favorite memories of the years I was commuting to San Francisco for my psychotherapist's training is a dinner party hosted by an Iranian acquaintance. She read Rumi's poetry in mellifluous Farsi while we sampled sensuous plate after plate of regional dishes I'd never tasted before, many of them featuring lots of herbs and fruity flavors. And, hey, there was no belly dancing! Instead, we watched a video of the Whirling Dervishes, the Sufi order founded by the 13th Century Rumi's followers.

There are a few good Persian restaurants in Atlanta, like Rumi's Kitchen, but they are in the suburbs and quite a commute for intowners. And there are plenty of restaurants in town that call their menus "Middle Eastern." But that broad category covers a lot of land, obviously — not that Persia didn't at its zenith.

Now, a new restaurant, Sufi's (404-888-9699), has opened at 1814 Peachtree St., next to R. Thomas, as I reported recently. I high-tailed it there alone after hearing about it and was quite impressed. The space, occupied for many years by Shipfeifer's, has been transformed into an elegant, intimate spot with slightly tented ceilings, copper colors and an open kitchen with a direct view of the wood-burning oven.

My meal included a complimentary plate of nibbles like radishes and feta cheese. I also ordered a bowl of deliciously fresh hummus and fesenjoon, a classic Persian stew of meat in a sauce of pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses and grated walnuts. It is a sweet and tart concoction, made with chicken at Sufi's. In complete honesty, as delicious as the dish was, I OD'd on the sweetness halfway through the dish, even with the large mound of basmati rice. I heartily recommend it, but you may want to split it with a friend and order a more savory dish too. I also tried the Turkish version of balklava made with shredded wheat.

The new restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. You can see the menus on its website, linked above.

EXCURSUS: I can't resist directing people to investigating the Sufism from which the restaurant takes its name. It is an esoteric, mystical part of Islam that is completely antithetical to the hysteria to which the religion is subjected in this country now.

Sufism has had a huge impact on my own work in psychology, because it is oriented toward aesthetics and the imagination. The very controversial French scholar Henry Corbin wrote a good deal about Sufism and the work of Ibn Arabii in particular. (His notable text on Ibn Arabi is "Alone with the Alone.")

Ibn Arabi and Corbin treat the heart as an organ of imagination, as do contemporary archetypal psychologists like James Hillman. The role of creativity is made clearer in "Alone with the Alone's" original title, "Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi." (I was asked to offer new names for the book myself.)

You will definitely taste the imagination at play in the new restaurant's cooking. Pay attention to your heart while you're eating it.

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