Efraim Azari, owner of Royal Persian Grill (192 West Englewood Avenue; Teaneck, NJ 07666; Telephone: 201-833-1555) has an inspiring personal story which explains his evolution into the kosher restaurant business.
Originally from Teheran, Efraim emigrated to Israel with his family, when he was just a child of 4. He grew up in a Tel Hashomer kibbutz. as left wing as it gets. Raised on ideology which stipulates that religious people were untrustworthy, superstitious and downright foolish, he focused his energies on an enlightened worldly consciousness, athletic healthy body, excelling in karate and other martial arts.
Thirteen years ago, Efraim emigrated to Miami, with his wife and youngest son, where he built a large successful business. One day, his son informed his parents of his decision to become a ba’al tshuvah. Efraim and his wife were devastated, wondering where they had failed their child; no amount of dissuasion sufficed, he couldn’t be talked out of this folly! Shortly thereafter, another stroke of bad luck befell the Azaris; Efraim severely injured his right shoulder blade. The tear required complicated surgery, the pain was unbearable, and the operation failed. A wounded, tired, exasperated Efraim traveled the world in search of a top surgeon that specialized in his injury… He found one, and scheduled a second operation, with the hoped that this time it would be successful. His nights were sleepless, excruciatingly painful, filled with channel surfing, Arak and other potables to numb the unceasing pain.
A few short weeks prior to the operation, Efraim’s son – now married and an avreich in a Monsey kollel – invited his parents for a visit. Though his core beliefs and lifestyle hadn’t changed one iota, Efraim couldn’t help but be impressed by the size and scope of the bet knesset and Yeshivat Or Yisrael. Before leaving, his son told Efraim that the Rosh Kollel wanted to give him a bracha (blessing). Little did he know his life was about to change… for ever…
“I hear you tore your shoulder blade,” the Rabbi said. “Yes,” Efraim answered. “And your first operation was a disaster.” “Yes,” Efraim answered. “And you’ve already scheduled a second operation.” “Yes,” Efraim answered. “I have the perfect doctor for you!” said the Rabbi. “With all due respect to the Rabbi I already have a top doctor,” Efraim answered. “You don’t understand, I can recommend THE top doctor to you.” “Please Rabbi, I already scheduled my operation!” “You don’t understand, I can recommend the best specialist for you,” repeated the Rosh Kollel. Again, at the urging of his wife, Efraim acquiesced and let the Rabbi continue. “Give me two hours a day of deep study, learn and thoroughly follow this book – which I’ll give you – on the Laws of Shabbat. Follow it thoroughly, do not pick and choose what’s convenient, or sensible, just follow it thoroughly or don’t waste your time warming a chair here. If you follow everything, the Doctor will cure you.” Reluctantly and again at his wife’s urging, Efraim committed himself to this. That very night, for the first time in almost a year, Efraim slept right, soundly; no pain, no needles, no shocks!
Refreshed, the next morning, he showed up at the Yeshiva, fascinated with the new teachings – revealing a heretofore unknown, undreamed of, world and a new purpose in life. Again that night he slept well, the pain had inexplicably eased up. After a week of refreshing sleep and productive learning, Efraim began to achieve some mobility in his injured arm and shoulder; soon all pain disappeared, full mobility and the use of his arm and shoulder returned. All without surgery… Believe it or not! The Doctor had done his job!!! “I’m a stubborn man,” Efraim says, “I don’t like change, but who can argue with obvious miracles when I experienced the healing in my own flesh?” I truly understood the meaning of Ani Hashem rofecha! – I am the Lord, your Doctor!” And so, the enlightened athlete who stumbled upon the courtyard of the Royal Palace in Monsey, stayed and learned. Four years ago, still dedicating several hours a day to his learning, he opened the Royal Persian Grill.
What makes the Persian cuisine different from Middle Eastern cooking? At the Royal Persian Grill they use a twenty five herb combo mix, a lot of parsley, cilantro, mind lemon and garlic, not hot spicy like some Israeli dishes, rather more sweet and sour. Rice accompanies many of the selections and is cooked differently than the usual western way. It’s cooked half way, then it gets washed in cold water, finally, it’s steamed. Thus, the kernels stay separated and retain their shape gleam and taste. We sampled one of their very popular Persian dishes. Ghorme Sabzi- a thick beef stew- a Persian cholent – if you will – with rice, red beans and meat. It was earthy and filling. The second Persian favorite was Beef Bamya, a sweet and sour beef stew with okra. It wasn’t ready when we were there and we hope to sample it next time.
We started the meal with their Appetizer Salad Combo.
We enjoyed this dish with toasted pita covered with oil and zaatar (hyssop). All the salads, like the rest of the of the fare, are freshly made at the restaurant. This salad combo plate tasted very good!
Next, we ordered a very adequate Yemenite Meat Soup. We continued with a delicately seasoned Grilled Chicken Breast…
Cooked just right, it was tender and juicy, as we sipped a refreshing iced lemon/mint tea.
We finished the meal with a superb Halva Ice Cream…
…and an excellent Baklavah. Yehudis, our waitress, made our meal an absolute delight with her friendly solicitousness. We know we’ll be back!