I can't remember the last time I had such a wonderful combination of food, family, atmosphere, conversation and history. Maybe not ever, but a meal at tiny Saro in Lower East Manhattan should be part of everyone's history. A young Israeli chef cooking his grandmother's recipes from the Balkan empire with such passion, if you show a true interest he'll spend as much time at your table talking history as he will in the kitchen preparing his amazing food. Five of us tried as much as we could from the wide ranging menu that showcases both the Ottoman and European sides of this delicious and deeply comforting cuisine. The cup of golden chicken soup tasted JUST like my grandmother's, although she never made her own noodles. Homemade mozzarella stuffed with cottage cheese was irresistible. Smoked bass in a salad with a tangy dressing was refreshing and addictive. Meltingly tender skate in a crunchy cornmeal crust was definitely the best skate I've ever eaten and actually the best fried fish, for that matter. Slices of succulent roast lamb with tangy purple cabbage and roasted potatoes was another dish from my childhood. Spinach and ricotta ravioli flavored with nutmeg were everything a ravioli ever could aspire to be. And the intriguingly named cingi lingi was a soothing bowl of seafood in a paprika laced broth with homemade fettucini. After all that who has room for dessert? But you must try the tiny golf-ball shaped doughnuts with a berry sauce! Come on! You know your grandmother would insist! At least, mine would.
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