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Maziar Farivar, co-owner and executive chef of Georgetown’s Peacock Cafe, originally hails from Iran, a nation which notably failed to qualify for this summer’s World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa. “It hurts,” Farivar says.
Still, he wanted to do something to celebrate the quadrennial global sporting extravaganza. Hence, the recent unveiling of several classic South African dishes at his restaurant on Prospect Street NW, which isn’t easy to do considering that Farivar had never even tried the stuff. “I didn’t know at all what they ate, what the cuisine was like, in South Africa,” he says. “But I have a regular guest from South Africa. She lives in Georgetown, a couple blocks away. She travels a lot for her work, so we don’t see her that much. But, when she was in, I asked her, ‘Can you help me with what your cuisine is like?’ And she got so excited. The next day, she comes in with a couple of cookbooks.”
It really didn’t seem all that exotic to Farivar. He was encouraged to note “a lot of influence of Malaysian and Indian cooking,” he says, “and really, as a result, a lot of the same spices that we use in Iran, as well.” Lots of “curry-type seasoning,” he adds.
Consider the beef bobotie (pronounced ba-boo-eh-tee), which includes some 10 to 15 different seasonings. “It reminds me of shepherd’s pie,” Farivar says. “But, in this case, instead of potato, it’s a combination of egg and sour cream baked into a light crust on top.” It comes served with yellow saffron rice and a spicy mango chutney and pairs nicely with a chenin blanc, Farivar says. During the World Cup, a small plate of the stuff will you set you back just $5.50. “I tell ya, it is, in fact, so delicious, I’m seriously considering putting it on my regular menu,” adds Farivar.
The chef has also developed a South African-style stuffed mushroom, crammed full of shrimp, cheddar and blue cheese, as well as a vegetarian curry dish, which is “almost like a crustless quiche,” he says. “Almost.” It might just be the only South African-themed game in town. Food wise, at least. “I don’t know of anybody else who’s doing it, honestly,” Farivar says.
Peacock Cafe isn’t among the more fanatical D.C. locations opening as early as 7 a.m. for the soccer watchers. At least not yet. “After next week, we’ll see,” Farivar says. But come at ten for pastries and coffee, he suggests, or try the bobotie during one of the afternoon matches. “The timing, from a restaurant operator’s perspective, is perfect,” Farivar says of the last match of the day, usually starting around 2:30 p.m. EST. “It’s right after the lunch rush. Business meetings, for the most part, are over.”
Photo by Darko Zagar