On the Line: Ali H. Zadeh of Port Restaurant, Part One
We met chef Ali H. Zadeh during Newport Beach Restaurant Week. Port Restaurant isn't your typical beach-city dining establishment. Then again, Zadeh isn't your typical proprietor.
How do you define global cuisine?
It is essentially international cuisine, or cuisines of the world. Cuisine is a style of cooking practices and traditions, often associated with a specific culture.
Port's menu has influences from Middle-Eastern countries, Mediterranean regions, Italian fare, French sauces, as well as some Asian and Indian dishes.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Use fresh ingredients and slow cooking for most home dishes.
Your earliest food memory:
My uncle was the head of Customs in Iran, and I remember walking through the kitchen in the clubhouse with him and basically asking the chef to put my favorite dish as the daily special.
Favorite meal growing up:
"Chelo Kabob," which is really the national dish of Iran. The meal is simple, consisting of steamed, saffroned basmati rice (chelo) and kebab, of which there are several distinct Persian varieties. Port offers some of the traditional ones, including shish kebab (filet mignon), koobideh (ground sirloin) and jujeh (chicken), as well as a couple of seafood versions--salmon and shrimp--along with plain or mixed rice, grilled tomatoes, and small sides of Shirazi salad (diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and mint with olive oil and lemon juice) and Greek tzatziki (yoghurt, cucumber purée, shallots and dill).
What are you serving on your cheese plate?
Goat cheese, Manchego, Danish blue, brie and Gruyère.
Your best recent food find:
I just had some fava bean hummus at a private function last week. It was a light, creamy alternative to the usual chickpea-based hummus.
What is your beverage of choice?
I always enjoy of one our hand-crafted, specialty cocktails at Port such as our Corona del Mango or grapefruit martini, made with fresh juice and St. Germain elderflower-blossom liquor.
When is your happy hour, and what are the specials?
Monday through Thursday, 5 to 7 p.m.; Friday, 4 to 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Our late-night happy hour is Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9 p.m. to midnight.
Cocktails and wines are from $6, and food items from $5. Entrées are $4 to $5 off, with $2 to $3 off starters, tapas, green plates and beers. There's $3 off all liquor, wines by the glass, specialty martinis and cocktails.
Tell us about the saffron ice cream.
It's a traditional Persian ice cream that uses rosewater, cardamom, pistachios and saffron. Saffron is used in lots of our recipes at Port. It's probably the world's most costly spice by weight and used mainly in various cuisines as a seasoning and coloring agent.
Where was your most recent meal?
Some fresh local sea bass with couscous salad and a mango-reduction sauce. It was our catch of the day at Port.
If you're open until midnight daily, how late is your entertainment performing?
We have nightly, live entertainment from 7 to 11 p.m.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own):
I rarely get a chance to get out and try other restaurants on a regular basis. For a casual meal, I like to go to Bandera for their mucho salad. And for a heartier meal, Maestro's Steakhouse is always a good choice.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Filet mignon eggs Benedict. It's on our weekend brunch menu.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
To cut the entire steak into little pieces. And yes, we did it!