Great Meal at the Flame last night
Although I eat out quite a bit without reporting on it, I had such a pleasant meal at the Flame on Westwood Blvd. in Westwood last night that I decided to share my experience. I have previously tried all the other Persian restaurants, though my standby for years has always been Javan. If the Flame is as good in future visits as it was in my first one, it will be my official choice for Persian in L.A.
First of all, my friend and I had to go early because we had tickets for "The Seagull" at UCLA at 7:30. The room is very pleasant and comfortable (if a bit non-descript), with a cavernous looking oven taking up one corner. This oven is obviously responsible for the delicious hot bread the server brought out immediately.
We noticed the menu prominently featured organic Alaskan beef, which was interesting, but as my friend and I eat virtually no meat, we focused on the seafood and vegetarian items on the menu, and we ordered the following three dishes:
1. Ash Reshteh (Persian soup with fresh vegetables, noodles, pinto beans, kashk [whey], garlic, mint)
2. Shirazi salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, onion, house dressing)
3. Flame-broiled filet of whitefish with half white rice and half green salad.
The Flame does not offer too much for vegetarians, though the soup was very hearty and delicious and tasted like nothing I'd ever had before. It had the silky texture and a bit of the taste of cream of spinach, yet without the cream and with a nice touch of mint. There are, however, vegetarian rice dishes also. The salad was simple but with a nice bright parsley flavor. We both agreed that the whitefish was especially outstanding--perfectly broiled on the outside to a subtle char and moist and tender inside. There were four pretty big chunks with a pile of white rice on one side and a big salad with some kind of yogurt/parsley (I think) dressing served separately. The salad was especially impressive because it was made with very fresh mesclun greens, ripe tomatoes, and cucumbers, as well as fruit (though I wasn't so keen on what seemed like canned pineapple chunks). You have to pay extra to get the salad/rice combination, but I think it's worth it because otherwise it's way too much rice for me.
We were equally happy with the service. Our primary server, Zohreh, was friendly, attentive, and most importantly to me did not rush us. We even had to ask for the check, which thrillingly reminds me of Europe. If only we could have lingered longer. I will next time, however, especially as I found out that you can bring your own wine with no corkage fee. With that kind of experience, I'll be back for my next visit very soon.
What is in the ghormeh sabzi? I have to say that I wasn't too excited by my meal at Shamshiri, but perhaps I ordered the wrong thing. I got some grilled vegetable kabobs with rice that had lentils in it, and it just didn't do much for me. It also came with some pretty poor, grainy, flavorless hummus that I definitely would avoid. I would give the place another chance, though, because I liked the service and atmosphere. I just enjoyed the Flame so much that I'll be going back there first...
Ghormeh Sabzi is a green vegetable stew with kidney beans and meat. It is served over white basmanti rice. Sabzi means vegetables (greens) in Persian, and it's really a big variety of stewed green herbs and veggies. It's delicious when made well. There is also dried (sour) lemon added into the mix.