Persian in Houston - Kasra and ???
I had my first experience of Persian today at Kasra and was a little disappointed. There are nothing but positive reviews on b4-u-eat and they seem to be by real people, not made-up names. There are only a couple of mentions in passing here on Chowhound. Perhaps I ordered the wrong things or it was just my personal tastes.
Doogh - the Persian version of a yogurt drink. I like yogurt drinks, lassi, borani, but this has carbonated water added and I thought the carbonation burn overpowered the yogurt and herbs.
Torshi - listed as pickled vegetables on the menu it’s a relish, very tart. I probably wouldn’t order it again.
Taftoon, the Persian flat bread - no where near as interesting a bread as naan or lepinja.
Kubideh - a little under-seasoned but very good with grilled tomato and basmati rice with saffron that I couldn’t stop eating.
Anybody know what the ‘Persian spice’ in the shaker on the table is? I tried to find out from the waiter and he tried to explain but couldn’t come up with any English so just said ‘Persian spice.’ It’s dark, like chili powder, but not hot or overwhelming, but it definitely did help the kubideh.
What do you recommend at this restaurant? I definitely will be going back to try some other things. How about the other Persian restaurants in Houston – Café Caspian, Bijan, the little place up Hillcroft from Bijan, Saffron, which has no reviews on b4-u-eat?
It is sumagh - crushed sumac berries. In some places in the US it was known as "Indian Lemonade" - it is tart and refreshing, and Persians strew it all over rice and grilled meat dishes. It is also one of the ingredients in the Levantine spice mix "za'atar.
Don't give up on the torshi - that is a generic term for pickled or pickles - and the variety is endless. It is really from home cuisine, and a highly regional mix and they can be heavenly. Unfortunately what is found in most Persian restaurants is kinda the same old song, and it gets tired. But then, most Persian restaurants around are really fancy kebbabies ... that is the most prevalent item on the menu, and torshi has a "red beans and rice" kind of relationship with kebabs.
I love taftoon, but there is also barbarie, and the bread cooked on pebbles on the floor of the oven - sangak. I think that to really "get" Persian breads it helps to have them cooked in a wood burning oven or tandoor.
And then there is that rice. Sorry, but with the exception of some bleed into the geographical periphery (parts of eastern Iraq and western Afghanistan) NO ONE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD CAN COOK RICE LIKE THE PERSIANS. I cannot leave that stuff alone. And when you can get some good tah dig on the side .... it's time for the Rapture. Hell, maybe that IS the Rapture.
Persians will take leftover rice and layer it with dates and raisins, almonds, etc. gently heated in butter and make kishmish polo. The breakfast of champions.
I only know the Persian spots in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. But if you can find a place that does lamb shank and baghali polo, go for it: that heavenly rice with lima beans (or, traditionally favas), and a massive amount of chopped, fresh dill weed. With a braised lamb shank. It's pretty wonderful.
The spice you enjoyed is called sumac. http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/p... Don't worry, it has nothing to do with the other sumac, aka poison oak. It is a very popular spice that is added to Persian food, especially kebabs.
It is great that you are trying something new, and you are on the right path of trying different dishes and diferent restaurants. I don't know how useful it is to do a side-by-side comparison between items of Persian food and similar Indian or Middle Eastern dishes, though. The flavors are going to be different and the "new" dishes are probably going to suffer in comparison to the "old" dishes you have had many times.
Other restaurants to try are Kolbeh, Garson and Cafe Caspian. As for different dishes, try the various types of kebabs, stews and rice dishes. You should be able to find something that you really like. Good luck!
I haven't tried your places, however I've had good luck at Shish-ke-Bob's. They have 2 locations: one at Hwy-6 & Westheimer, the other next to Target on Katy Frwy & Fry Rd.
Shish-ke-Bob's has sumac on the table, lamb dishes, chicken dishes, ke-bobs, etc. Pretty decent stuff for a lunch stop.