REVIEW: Wholesome Choice, Irvine and Anaheim
Yep, another market review... but ah, Los Angeles, you wish you had this market. Let's start with the Persian hot food counter.
A pint or so of gheimeh (beef and lentil stew), a huge amount of basmati rice, and a 4-by-6 piece of rich, buttery, crispy tadig (rice crust). $4.95, fragrant, delicious, filling. How can you beat it?
Or maybe you'd prefer a small mountain of zereshk polo (basmati rice cooked with caramelised onions and barberries) with a whole half chicken cooked in saffron. The dark meat is better than the white, but make sure you eat it all, including where the chicken juices soak into the rich, tangy rice. $7.95 and totally enough for lunch for two days.
No? What about a plate of baghali polo (basmati rice with dill and fresh fava beans -- I saw them peeling the beans in the kitchen) with a filet-mignon barg kebab? Or maybe you'd like fesenjan (chicken in a rich, dark, pomegranate and walnut sauce) with saffron rice? Or a piece of sangak (Persian flatbread) with two enormous kufta (meatballs in thin tomato sauce)?
The Irvine location has a reputation for unkind (or maybe just "sullen" is a better description) counter help at the Persian food counter. This is patently NOT the case at the Anaheim location -- in fact the counterman slipped my daughter a couple of Greek olives from the cold case next to him.
Persian food not your thing? They have Chinese, Thai, Indian, Arabic, barbecued meat, sandwiches and sushi, as well as hot soups, a whole selection of Persian and American prepared salads (Shirazi salad, various yoghurt dips, cheese spreads for eating with crunchy raw vegetables, herbs and bread) and a salad bar. It's like Whole Foods but without the Goode Family were-my-reusable-bags-made-in-a-sweatshop guilt, and without the shocking prices.
And then, when you're done eating, go shopping. Cheap but excellent quality meat; you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it prices on produce (today the $0.99/lb. cherries I was inspecting were taken firmly from me with a "these are three days old, go get fresher ones!" from the produce manager -- and that was after he helped me with the $0.79/lb. fresh apricots). Breads and tinned goods and frozen goods from absolutely everywhere. Impossible-to-find juices and liquors at reasonable prices. More brands of yoghurt than Carter has pills. Mashti Malone's ice cream. A selection of Russian charcuterie and smoked fish that puts Jons to shame. Hot bread baked to order for you (not just sangak but sweet bread and whole wheat barbari bread), all under $3 a loaf -- and the sangak so big you'll need a pickup truck to take it home.
I filled up four big reusable bags (sweatshop, shmeatshop!) today with victuals for the coming week. $42. Unbelievable.
Good luck parking. Irvine is easier to park at; Anaheim is generally a better place. Irvine is more Persian; Anaheim is more Indian and more European.
Two more are expected to open in the next year or so -- one in San Diego and one in south OC (Lake Forest and Laguna Something-or-Other have been floated about the rumour mill).
18040 Culver Dr, Irvine, CA 92612
Wholesome Choice Market
5755 E La Palma Ave, Anaheim, CA