BEST MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT (1998)
Finally, Minneapolitans get Middle Eastern fine dining. All year people have been requesting the Persian specialties on Atlas's business-crowd-focused menu, but this spring sees the debut of an entirely separate Persian menu. In addition to the herb-marinated kebabs, saffron basmati rice, homemade tangy yogurt, and fire-roasted eggplant with garlic purée that were already on the menu, look for items that were formerly available by request only: stews such as ghime, a turmeric-rich, chickpea-based dish enriched with braised lamb or beef, or the fantastic sweet rice, the fluffy grain enlivened with carrots, pistachios, almonds, and orange zest. Wash it down with a cocktail from the full bar or a glass of Atlas's own blend of cardamom-scented tea, and the days when cafeteria-style spinach pies and icy stuffed grape leaves were haute Middle Eastern cuisine 'round here will drift away like last month's cardamom husks.