Parisas (Sparks) Chowdown report
Six hounds met for the Saturday buffet lunch held at Parisas (see the previous post by Bill I attached at the end here). All but two of us were new to Chowdowns, so they probably don't know the tradition that the last one to arrive should be the first to report. Well, that was me, so here goes (I'm at a bit of a disadvantage, as I can't remember the names of things and even though Bill told me the spelling/name of my favorite chicken dish three times I STILL don't remember....I'm sure some of you will fill in the details, and maybe Steve can share his photos...).
Anyway, this is a small deli in the commercial area of Sparks. They have a few Persian dishes on the menu and do a small buffet on Saturday afternoons (14.95 including drinks for all you can eat; very reasonable IMO). There were two or three main dishes on the buffet, as well as salads and deserts. The "regulars" who had been there before state that the dishes are different every week. In addition, the owner brought us some complementary kabobs (beef and chicken). A sign says these are not included on the buffet; he just wanted us to try them. Everyone agreed that the kabobs were a highlight, and several of us would go back just for kabobs on a weekday...
As for the buffet items: My favorite was the chicken dish. I am going to rely on Bill to give me the name...see my comment above. It was served in a thick sauce made from pomegranites and walnuts. It is probably most similar in texture and appearance to a Mexican mole, but the taste of the sauce almost reminded me of the haroset served at Jewish Passover seders. Sweet and nutty, and very good. The chicken was tender as well.
Another dish I liked was the potato dish. It was like a thick frittata...again, don't ask me names.
I also really enjoyed the salads. The greens were a mixture of mint, cilantro, maybe some Italian parsley, and other deep green veggies. Very good with a cucumber-yogurt dressing on top. There was also a tasty cucumber-tomato salad.
But I think the highlight of the meal for me was desert. There was some great melon, some ok watermelon, a halwa, and the most wonderful coconut cookies I have eaten in a long, long time. My tablemates will testify to the fact that I was practically moaning as I ate them. I love macaroons....there were three types: plain, covered in dark chocolate, and covered in white chocolate. The white chocolate ones were especially tasty. In addition, the texture was perfect. Not too dry, not too chewy....just right. It took a lot of will power to keep from loading my purse with a bunch of them as I walked out....
I say if you want something different and tasty on a Saturday afternoon, check out this buffet. Its definitely unique to the area, and some tasty dishes are to be had. I'd be interested in hearing from the rest of you.
Bill's original post on Parisa's:
I went back today for steak and chicken kabobs. Both were good, but I still give the chicken the edge. They included a plate of saffron rice that was nice. They started me out with lavash, a Persian flat bread, and a plate with feta cheese, mint, cilantro, basil and a pair of radishes. You put a little bit of feta cheese on the lavash, then add a mint leaf and a basil leaf and maybe some cilantro and fold the bread over. It's nice. This meal is $19, so it's not something I can do every day. But it's nice.
I tried Parisa's buffet again on Saturday. There was a beef and rice dish that was outstanding. The rice had dill and other spices that gave it great flavor. And she steamed the beef with the rice. It was well done.
After I learned more about Persian food, I realized the mistake I made the first time at the buffet. All the greens we loaded onto our plates for salad? It's not that kind of a salad. The Idea is to get the flatbread, I believe it's called lavash, and crumble some feta cheese on it. Then you put a mixture of greens on the bread and eat it almost like a sandwich. There's a term for it, but I can't remember how to describe it.
Try the koobideh (ground beef) kabob one of these times. I think they have it at lunch for about $7.50 or so (may be wrong about the price). I like the ground meat kabobs better than the sultani kabobs, myself.
I may try to get Parisa to do some rice in the Albalo Polo style one of these Saturdays. Albalo Polo rice is basmati with sweet and sour cherries and spices. The other outstanding rice we had on another visit was Zereshk Polo, sometimes called Jewel Rice, because the Persian cranberries (barberries) and golden raisins look like jewels in the rice. Sometimes they add pistachio chips as well. Persian rices are wonderful! It's great to find someone in town who can cook Persian dishes.
I have two other sets of friends that want to give Parisa's a try one of these Saturdays. Too many restaurants, so little time and money.....
The chicken dish that all of us liked so much is Khoresh Fesenjan. As Janet said, it's really a chicken stew cooked in a thick sauce of onions, ground walnuts and pomegranate juice. I have had this several times in Persian restaurants in Costa Mesa, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Berkeley. My wife tends to swoon over the combination, while I could always take it or leave it, but I have to admit that this was the best version I have ever had.
If you're interested, here's a recipe I found for it on the web. Haven't tried the recipe, but it looks representative.
The other main entree was Ghormeh Sabzi, almost the Persian national dish. Here's a recipe version to give you an idea of what's in it.
Glad everyone liked their meal. I like the owners and their cooking, and we have several more friends who would also like to give it a try.
Thanks for posting the dish names, bill. As for the Ghormeh Sabzi, no one seemed that enamoured of it. Several of those more familiar with Persian cooking than I noted it tasted bitter or maybe burnt...I note in the recipe you posted that the bitter taste could mean its overcooked, so that would make sense. OTOH, it definitely contains a lot of greens, so its no doubt good for you!! There was a little bit of meat in the Sabzi, probably lamb, but it was fatty and didn't have much taste.
To be honest, I've never particularly cared for Ghormeh Sabzi. Parisa told Linda that they cook/toast the spices first, and then add the rest of the ingredients. The lamb dish they had last week was excellent, though - very tender and flavorful.
Fortunately, the yogurt and cucumber sauce is a great accompaniment to these dishes, even the ones where you don't care for that particular taste.
I really like Persian kabobs - chicken, beef, or lamb (often called "sultani"). And at home I've made both beef and chicken Koobideh (ground meat and spices molded around a sword and grilled). The chicken version can be really excellent, particularly when paired with saffroned basmati rice, and a Must-o Khiar (thick yogurt with cucumber and mint). My favorite rice, though, is the one they do with sour cherries.
Enjoyed our lunch, guys. Looking forward to the next chowdown.
Nice report, Janet. I think I'm hooked on Parisa's kabobs. I will try them again. The chicken kabobs and the other chicken dish that were part of the regular buffet were the stand out dishes for me.
The cooking seems to be a distant cousin of Indian cuisine.
The only thing I didn't like was the yogurt drink I got. It was yogurt squared. Very intense yogurt flavors. But as yogurt drinks go, I suspect it was pretty well done.