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Jan 1, 2007 02:18 AM

Persian in San Rafael - Apadana, Cafe Papillion, Jasmine Market, Hatam

OK, I wasn't trying but I came across three Persian joints in San Rafael and was wondering how they were.

The first was Apadana on East Francisco. It was really Azteca Market that caught my eye in this little strip mall and as I drove in I noticed Apadana.

This place smells so good and I had just stuffed myself silly elsewhere ... but the aroma of the food here almost made me hungry again.

They were out of menus, but here's a really nice review in the Marin Independant Journal.

The owner said they were open for about six months and that in 2007 they would be starting lunch service. The review says that once a month there is belly dancing. It really is a nice little restaurant and there is kind of a water view.

About Apadana in Persia

So, then I stop by Montecito Plaza and lo and behold there's a Persian restaurant and Persian market ... what are the chances?

Didn't have time to stop by Jasmine Market, but I did pick up a menu and scope out Cafe Papillon. It gets a number of good mentions on the web especially for the fesenjoon.

They have a little bakery in front that sells French pastries like napoleans as well as mid-Eastern baked goods like baklava. Didn't notice till I got home that they have Persian ice cream ... darn.

Other than ice cream I know zilch about Persian food. Some interesting stuff on the menu:
- Tahdigh - bottom of rice pot, crunchy part of the rice that is closest to the fire with gheyma stew poured on top
- Gheyma - eggplant stew with lean beef cooked in fresh tomato sauce with yellow lentils

I didn't see Hatam, but in looking up the other places, I came across yet another Persian grocery and market ... nearish the others. Here's a nice review.

A few brief mentions of Persian in San Rafael from an old 2002 Chowhound post.

San Rafael has these little ethnic pockets ... like the 2 1/2 Cuban restaurants.

So anyone tried any of these places? any reccomendations?

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  1. Good work, rw! Those are the four Persian businesses I've noticed so far, maybe there are more. I quizzed the Marinites about them at our Om South Indian dinner and learned that there's a large, established Iranian population in Marin County. I've been to Hatam, stopped there a couple years ago when I needed some dried limes on the way north. The cafe tucked in the back of the market smells good, but i didn't partake. Here's one brief post -

    Cafe Papillon and Jasmine are in the same shopping center as Trader Joe's and certainly local chowhounds are walking past it all the time. Beats me why no one has reported on it. But there is a Persian posse forming...

    Two Spanish specialty markets in the county is interesting too, no?

    1. I took my bicycle in for service in San Rafael today and discovered Cafe Papillon was pretty much right next door.

      For some reason, I didn't notice the stews on the lunch menu; instead, I ended up getting a lamb koobideh ($7.95) as well as the torshee appetizer. The torshee ($3.75) was exactly as described - pickled finely-diced vegetables. It worked well to liven up the pita strips (which came out with a standard sourdough roll.)

      It actually worked even better in concert with the lamb koobideh, which itself was very savory and juicy on its own. With that said, the torshee (which seemed to be a small portion) might be a better value for the price shared amongst two or more diners. The koobideh also came with a grilled tomato, a goodly amount of basmati rice, and a run-of-the-mill side salad.

      I wish I'd seen the paper menu while I was there - I don't recall the in-house menu listing things like bastani (persian ice cream), baklava, and there seemed to be more items listed as appetizers. Maybe next time with more time on my hands...

      1. Thanks for the report back. I suspect Apadana which is nearby would be the better choice ... the aroma of the cooked food was so wonderful.

        Maybe at lunch the selection is limited.

        How did the baked goods looked. I went late in the day on Sunday and there were about three danish, one sad napolian that looked defeated and some cookies.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rworange

          There were more items available this time about, but they looked like standard run of the mill pastries. I was hoping to see at least some baklava in there

          From what you mentioned in your OP, I agree - Apadana seems like a more tasty option.