"This is our Persian soup; we make it with 17 different vegetables. We top it with mint, crispy onion, garlic, and yogurt" (that is, kashk). The gal who runs Taste of Persia's outdoor pop-up repeats this litany tirelessly; despite the winter cold, customers just keep coming.
Not far away, chef-owner Saeed Pourkay also serves his thick noodle soup, ash reshteh (small, $6), and three or four other dishes each day from the front corner of a Flatiron pizzeria. (At less-busy hours, you may be offered samples of the lot, commentary included.) The setting is unglamorous, but it does offer indoor seating and ready access to fountain soda.
Previously: My Persian plate ($12) would look humdrum if not for the sumac powder and saffron water that decorate the basmati rice. That's too bad. Kabab diggi, the sauteed ground beef shown at top left, is quite good; fesenjan, below it — shredded duck in a pomegranate walnut sauce — is terrific, especially for the tartness of the pomegranate.
Kamameshi (kah-mah-May-she, or "kettle rice") is an analog of the Hong Kong-style claypot rice called bo zai fan. A distinction of this Japanese style is that it employs a metal pot for cooking and serving, but the similarity is more apparent: Good things are steamed with rice, which takes on their flavors.
In the case of "five gold curry kamameshi" ($15), the principals are coconut curry, green onion, and minced chicken, which in the first photo have already been gently mixed with the rice. Also shown: the okoge, the enticing, desirable crunchy bits that adhere to the pot.
Sen 12 West 21st St. (Fifth-Sixth Aves.), Manhattan 212-388-5736 Also 23 Main St., Sag Harbor, New York 631-725-1774 www.SenRestaurant.com
For a scoop of salted caramel pretzel (outdoor market price, $3), I reconsidered my anti-add-ins policy, a safeguard against second-rate ice cream oversugared by third-rate candy. The pretzels, which are folded in on the spot, add a salty exclamation point that seems to draw out even more flavor from the caramel. As long as we're customizing, next time I'll take mine extra-crumbly, please.
Goat Town 511 East 5th St. (Aves. A-B), Manhattan 212-687-3641 Also at Mad Sq. Eats, Worth Sq., near Fifth Ave. and 24th St., daily through June 9