The Scarlet Letter
Volume III, Number 2 | December 1995
A feast every day in your hearts in the joy of my rapture! –AL II:42
If you have the good fortune or foresight to have dinner at ARARAT, a feast is what you will find, and a mouth full of rapture when you taste the food. ARARAT is a family owned establishment that serves traditional Kurdish, Persian, Armenian, Arabic & Turkish food, for both vegetarians and omnivores. Their fare is fresh, healthy and filling, not to mention attractive and tasty. You can tell by looking at my waistline that food is not one of my chief pleasures in life, so it takes a pretty rare and wonderful restaurant to inspire me to recommend it.
ARARAT's Dolmeh are the best I have ever tasted; pine nuts and rice, lotsa lemon, and yogurt sauce to dip them in. There is a choice of either Persian dill rice or Buighar rice with vegetables to go with any meal. Their fish dishes have been highly recommended but I have not finished working my way through the excellent beef, lamb, and chicken part of the menu yet. One of my favorite details is the Pomegranate seeds that come sprinkled over the Persian rice, colorful, magickal, and tasty. Do leave room for desert, the Baklava is honey heaven.
I personally recommend a yogurt and mint drink called Dew that you may never have tasted before. The Mountain Tea is traditional, warm, and invigorating even without caffeine. Turkish coffee is also available for those who want a tasty jolt.
ARARAT does not have a license to serve liquor, but they invite you to bring your own wine or beer. They will gladly supply refrigeration, glasses, and corkscrews for their customers.
The atmosphere is excellent for casual bohemian Thelemites and Austinites: intimate, dim, with an indescribably wonderful aroma. Many of the chairs don't match, there is one round corner table where you can sit on the floor with pillows (that is my favorite table). Each menu has a different original piece of art work on it and there are also hangings all over the small dining room. There is a shrine to what I think is a Mesopotamian or Sumerian God in the corner (I haven't found him in my books yet, maybe you will recognize him) and there are traditional middle eastern metal serving implements and rugs scattered about.
This is a quiet place where you can have a real conversation with your dining companions. The service is not the fastest in town, but it is unobtrusive and pleasant and I have not minded waiting because the resulting food is worth it. Entrees are less than $7.00 and Mezze's are a little more than $3.00 each. Add desserts and a drink and your total bill for dinner will still be less than $15 per person.
I understand that there is belly dancing from 8:30 to 9:00 on Thursdays and that reservations are recommended for 7:30 on Thursdays if you intend to see the show. I haven't had the pleasure of attending that performance yet, but I plan to check it out soon. Just ask any of the various members of the Oasis that I have been hijacking to go eat with me at ARARAT how wonderful it is. Better yet, take your appetite and an agreeable companion, and check it out yourself.
Their menu says: "In this wicked world something is real—ARARAT"
Reviewed by Justine
What a title! That truly exquisite pairing of words raised expectations in this reader that would not be easily fulfilled. The more specific promise of the cover blurb is the treatment of "Sadomasochistic sexuality...combined with spiritual or magical aims." The authors claim to be the first to offer a book-length study of the topic, and so far as I know, they have indeed broken some new ground on the publishing side.
But perhaps there is a reason that this particular soil has been untilled. As the authors must frequently admit in various cautions to the reader, such experiences and techniques are best transmitted in the flesh, not on paper. So this text is happily devoid of cookbook ritual instructions. What it does attempt to convey are 1) an historical survey, 2) a magical theory; 3) a notion of the range of possible practice, and 4) leads for further study and practice.
The historical survey, while fascinating, is not a pinnacle of scholarship. Statements like, "The A.'.A.'. did not fulfill its function as Crowley had envisioned it," cast a shadow of doubt over other information presented by the authors. The theory and practice sections are in the manner of a primer, and will best serve those who are new to either magical theory or S/M practice. In general, the authors do not seem to be suggesting any departures from existing techniques of S/M, but simply stressing the addition of a magical sensibility to the work. The leads for further investigation include a couple of helpful bibliographies and listings of addresses for various groups and suppliers.
Running throughout the text is a thread of shameless self-promotion for the author's own magical order, the Order of the Triskelion. This firmly traditional feature of magical writing culminates in a full manifesto appended to the book.
Overall, Carnal Alchemy seems to fall a little short of its goal of boldly defining a new field within current sex-magical practice. It could certainly be an eye-opener for those ignorant of such technologies, and it remains an intriguing curiosity for those already working with them.