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A Pilaf With a Pedigree

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If there’s one thing this food-obsessed town lacks, it’s a good takeout biryani. Or so says Ishrat Ansari, co-owner of Sangam, a new bare-bones, six-table Bleecker Street spot wedged in between a Tasti D-Lite and a Greek taverna. When Ansari, who also owns Caffe Vivaldi on Jones Street, enlisted his substitute-teacher wife, Rafat, to cook for a couple of special events, her biryani—a family recipe for the Mogul pilaf that layers meat with intricately seasoned basmati rice—caused something of a hullabaloo. “We started getting calls: ‘Where is that food? Where is the biryani?’ It was getting out of hand. We had to put it on the Caffe Vivaldi menu as a special.” With that kind of response, Ansari soon came to realize that to deprive his public of easier access to this toothsome delicacy would be cruel. Thus Sangam was born. Under Mrs. Ansari’s direction, the kitchen also turns out samosas, kati-style rolls, and a daily special or two. But the biryani—one bite of which elicits an exquisite, well-balanced heat—is the thing, made, as Ansari is quick to tell you, with freshly ground spices. Although the menu describes the dish as “an authentic royal haute cuisine preparation,” it will run you only $6 or $7 (vegetarian or chicken, respectively) including a cool cup of raita (190 Bleecker St., nr. Macdougal St.; 212-228-4648).


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