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Laury's is home to classic cuisine

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's been nearly 20 years since brothers Fazi and Sadegh Mirzakhani purchased Laury's, the fine dining restaurant Chef Otis Laury established in 1979. Two years after the purchase, the brothers moved the restaurant from its original Capitol Street location to its current elegant home in the refurbished C&O railroad depot.

Diners take in views of the Kanawha River and downtown Charleston through the ample windows on one side, while trains occasionally rumble alongside the building on the other. As if inspired by the cultured interior, the passing trains offer only a subdued sound as they pass.

Sadegh started working at Laury's in 1988 as a busboy and is currently sous chef. Brother Ramin began his culinary career as a waiter at Berry Hills Country Club and worked his way into the kitchen. Today he is executive chef.

The three brothers have six additional siblings. The family immigrated to the United States in 1987 from Kuwait, but are originally from Iran. Fazi, the oldest, came ahead of the others to work for his uncle Asghar Mirzakhani, who owned Laury's at the time.

"This is a small family business," Fazi said. "We're here six days a week and closed for one week a year, usually in July." They often vacation together.

Laury's original menu centered on classic French cuisine. Chef Ramin prepares American cuisine with French infusions. Steak Diane with demi-glace Dijon cream sauce and Seafood au Gratin, baked shrimp, scallops and crabmeat served in a white wine and cheddar cheese sauce.

Classic longtime favorites such as Caesar salad and Shrimp Casino, both prepared tableside, filet mignon and Steak au Poivre will always grace the menu, but Ramin changes the menu occasionally. He especially enjoys tinkering with seafood entrees and currently features braised Chilean sea bass and scallops with roasted tomatoes and red bell peppers ragout served with rice.

Escargot and Oysters Rockefeller are appetizer mainstays. Ramin recently added lobster stuffed mushrooms, coconut curry shrimp and Scallops Par Fazi. There is always a Scallops Par Fazi on the menu, but the preparation changes. This version is bacon-wrapped scallops served with asparagus and a lemon butter capers sauce. A mixed greens salad topped with a mound of fried goat cheese is a recent addition to salad menu.

The Mirzakhanis expect their staff to provide attentive service, from the maitre d' to the servers who encourage diners to linger over their meals at the white-clothed tables. "The atmosphere here is elegant, yet relaxed. It's beautiful. Customers don't want to leave. You won't be rushed here," said Sadegh. The exception might be on an extremely busy night like Valentine's Day.

The portions are large enough that diners often split entrees. Prices range from $20 for chicken entrees to $40 for Steak Maison, a 9-ounce beef tenderloin and shrimp stuffed with crabmeat and served with asparagus and Hollandaise sauce. Most seafood, veal, beef and seafood entrees fall in the $25 to $35 range and include side dishes.

An extensive wine list and full bar also elicit comments from diners who say they frequently pay more for the same wines in other restaurants, according to Fazi, who selects and prices the wines.

Bananas Foster prepared tableside and chocolate or Grand Marnier soufflés that require 30-minute preparation time are memorable endings for an evening. Six other desserts tempt diners' sweet teeth.

Laury's has long been considered a special occasion restaurant and is the site of many birthday, anniversary and other celebrations. Business clients make up a good portion of the customer base, as do people traveling in Charleston, but an increasing number of locals are becoming regulars.

"We have all kinds of people. They come here because they like to experience fine dining and share that with their family and friends," said Ramin.

"It's not only for special occasions. We're getting lots of young couples," Fazi added, who thinks television shows about food have sparked interest in fine dining.

Laury's, 350 MacCorkle Ave. S.W., is open from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Reservations recommended: 304-343-0055. Visit www.laurysrestaurant.com

Reach Julie Robinson at julier@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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